Whether you're submitting a claim to your insurance company or filing a personal injury lawsuit against another driver, witness statements will be an integral part of your case. Witnesses to the accident can provide added support to your side of the events, which can increase your chances of winning your case. Here are a few tips for obtaining credible witness statements after you've been in a car accident.
All Witnesses Are Not the Same
Although you'll want to speak to anybody and everybody who was present at the scene and saw the accident, not all witnesses will be helpful to you. You want people whose testimony the judge or insurance investigator will find credible. If there is any doubt as to the veracity of your witness' statement, your case could suffer as a result.
There are a number of things that can affect a witness' credibility such as:
- Did the witness view the accident from the beginning?
- Were they in an area where they could see clearly?
- Were they paying full attention to the events or were they distracted by other things such as a crying child or talking on their cell phone?
- Have they been convicted of a crime? This doesn't automatically disqualify the person as a credible witness but could throw the individual's honesty into question.
- Is there a conflict of interest? For example, is the witness related to the driver?
- Was the witness impaired in some way? For instance, was the individual intoxicated or not wearing his or her prescription glasses?
It's important that you make note of anything that may negatively affect how the witness' testimony is viewed so you can either find a way to minimize the impact the issue has on your case or discard the person's testimony altogether.
At the Accident Site
During the immediate aftermath of the accident is both the best and worst time to collect witness statements. On the one hand, the events are fresh in everyone's mind so the accuracy of recall will be high. At the same time, accident scenes are typically chaotic and people are more focused on tending to injuries and assessing property damage to give their full attention to discussing the crash.
If there are injuries, it's best to focus on getting medical attention and worry about collecting statements at a later time. If no one is hurt, though, then start talking to everyone at the scene. Use you cell phone or a digital camera to record statements from:
- The driver of the vehicle
- People who stop to help
- Nearby Road or utility workers
If you don't have a recording device, have the witnesses write down what they saw on a piece of paper. Be certain to get their signatures. It may be helpful to keep blank witness statement forms in your glove box just for this eventuality. If a person doesn't want to give a statement at that time, at least collect the person's name and phone number so you, your attorney or your insurance company can contact the individual for a statement at a later time.
Be certain to get the contact information of the police officer at the scene so you can get copies of the police report and any witness statements the cop collects.
Locating Other Witnesses
There may have been other witnesses to the accident besides the people who were on the scene. This is particularly true if the crash occurred inside the city as opposed to on the highway.
As soon as possible, visit any houses or businesses in the area to locate people who may have seen the crash. Another option is to put up notices requesting witnesses contact you or your attorney. You should also look for video cameras that may have recorded the event. Be aware, though, you may need to have your attorney send a legal request to obtain any footage that may have been caught on tape.
As noted previously, having credible witnesses statements can help you win your case. Contact a car accident attorney if you need help getting people to testify on your behalf or litigating your case. Visit http://www.hvlawfirm.com to learn more.