After a car accident, having witnesses to back up your belief that another driver was at fault can be very important to your case. After all, while a jury likely will view defendants and plaintiffs as biased, witnesses tend to be neutral third-party bystanders with no reason to tell anything but the truth.
Since witnesses have no stake in the outcome of a claim, they tend to be believed when asserting who was at fault in a car accident.
Typical witnesses to a car wreck are persons in vehicles or on foot who happened to be in the vicinity when the wreck occurred.
These can include people emerging from stores or businesses nearby, road and utility workers, drivers or passengers of adjacent vehicles or even non-driving occupants of a vehicle that was in the crash. They also can include a so-called passerby or someone who stops to render aid.
You must make your health and safety your immediate priorities after a car wreck. However, if possible, survey the scene immediately after a crash to determine who might have witnessed it. If a driver other than you was to blame, ask the witness if that also was their perception of the accident.
Remember to identify yourself and to be as polite and as patient as possible with witnesses. After all, you will be asking them to do you a favor by supporting your case if their perception of the crash coincides with your own.
Then, if the witness supports your claim and is willing, get the name, address, phone number, email address and any other contact information for each witness. You can do this by using a pen and paper, or you can record such information on a cellphone.
While you can get a witness to jot down or record a statement confirming his or her perception of the crash, you don’t necessarily have to record a witness’s actual statements at this time. But you do need to record or note all of the contact information that you can get.
Later, give the contact information for each witness to your car accident lawyer. Your attorney or the firm’s investigator will help by contacting each witness for you.
Witnesses then will be asked exactly what they know or remember about your accident. If their knowledge or recollection will help your case, the lawyer or investigator will get a recorded statement to preserve that.
Such a recorded statement will not be under oath, and it alone may not be that useful in a later legal proceeding, settlement or lawsuit. But all information supporting your case is worth gathering for its potential use later.
A formal deposition, which records the witness’s statement, can be more helpful in a later legal proceeding. However, your lawyer cannot let you hear this statement without also allowing the defense attorney access to it. For this reason, you may not be allowed to hear the deposition of a witness until a case goes to trial.
Even then, how effective are witness statements? That depends on the witness. In some cases, a witness may have his or her credibility undercut, as when the witness makes courtroom testimony that is inconsistent with his or her initial statement.
Also, the observations of witnesses who were far from the spot of the accident may have less credibility. Further, a witness may lose credibility based on his or her personal nature or characteristics, such as a reputation for dishonesty or perhaps a criminal background.
Before a case goes to trial, witness statements may be provided to an insurance company’s claims adjusters. They will contact the witnesses and ask each for a recorded statement, taken from questions the adjusters will ask. Such questions will include whether the witness is related to you or knew you prior to the crash, or if the witness has any financial or personal interest in the claim’s outcome.
If your case isn’t settled by negotiation with the insurer and instead goes to trial, witness statements may not be helpful to your claim. Legally, a witness’s statement is considered hearsay and might not be admissible in court. Also, the witness must show up in court in order to testify.
Yet having witnesses who support your account of a crash can be very helpful when dealing with an insurance company. Favorable witnesses can get an insurance adjuster to take your claim seriously and be more willing to negotiate an appropriate settlement.
You also may use “non-human witnesses” for your case. That is, you can determine if surveillance video or ATM camera footage in the area caught images of the accident as it happened.
Many retailers maintain constant video of the areas in front of their business, which may include the street view of where your accident took place.
Your car accident lawyer with our law firm can help you secure such footage.
Notify Jim Adler & Associates today for a free case review. You may be legally entitled to substantial financial recovery for your injury losses.