If you're involved in a collision at a busy intersection where plenty of people heard the squeal of your brakes as you tried to stop and looked around in time to see the wreck itself, you may feel like you have plenty of witnesses handy. However, you can't just run around getting the names and contact info of anyone nearby as soon as you've made sure nobody is hurt and exchanged contact and insurance info with the other driver; you'll probably only have time to get a few contact details, so try to choose the most reliable witnesses. Here are three ways to assess how valuable a witness will be to your case.
1. Ask if they both saw and heard everything
A passerby who looked up when they heard the collision won't be of any use in court. Why? Because they didn't see the events that led up to the accident itself. This is why other drivers are often good witnesses, because they're more likely to be watching the road. This point also means that your best witnesses will be those who were nearby, close enough to see details, but also far enough away to see the big picture (for example, able to see whether the light at an intersection was green or not).
2. Ask what they were doing at the time of the wreck
While other drivers on the road are often paying attention to what's happening around them, they may also be distracted by their own concentration on their driving. If they're driving nearby when the wreck occurs, they may be focusing more on how to avoid getting involved in the wreck than on the details of who did what and when. For this reason, a bored passenger or someone who was sitting on a nearby bench on the sidewalk and simply people-watching could be an even better bet than someone who was actively driving at the time.
3. Ask if they've testified in court before
There are many factors affecting a witness's credibility that you can't assess on-scene. For example, you shouldn't ask questions that may offend them and cause them to refuse to give you their contact details (such as asking them if they're a convicted felon or how good their eyesight really is). However, you can ask questions related to their reliability, such as whether they've testified in court before. If they have, you can ask them if their side won or not. If they have testified in court, great; they have experience with how to handle themselves on a witness stand. But this question may also help them open up and tell you other relevant information that will give you insight into whether their testimony will be useful or not.
These quick questions will help you get a back-of-the-hand estimate of whether the witnesses whose contact info you have will be helpful in your court case if needed. Later on you can discuss with your lawyer which witnesses will be the most helpful, but these questions will help you get the contact info of witnesses who have a good chance of being useful.
Contact a law firm like the Brownfield Law Office for additional information on how to handle a car accident case.