How Witness Statements After an Accident Can Help Your Case
Determining liability for some car accidents is more difficult than others, and it’s vital to understand the importance of witness statements and how they could help your car accident claim. The first steps you take after an accident will strongly influence the outcome of a future lawsuit, and one of your top priorities should be identifying witnesses and securing their contact information.
How to Identify Witnesses for Your Claim
Did you suffer injuries when another driver sped through an intersection and T-boned your vehicle when you clearly had the right-of-way? Another driver waiting at the light or passing nearby probably saw the incident happen. Passing pedestrians, local business employees, and other motorists are the most common witnesses to car accidents.
If you sustain serious injuries in an accident you may not be able to take any witness information and witnesses will have to be located once your medical issues stabilize. If the police responded to your car accident, it is likely that at least one or two of the witnesses who saw the accident remained at the scene and talked to the police or at least provided the involved drivers with contact information
Finding Additional Witnesses
It’s possible that your accident occurred in a less congested area, or on a highway with fast-moving traffic. If there were any traffic cameras nearby, your attorney will likely want to subpoena the recordings to use as evidence in your lawsuit. Traffic camera data may help prove liability for the accident and help the police locate potential witnesses or hit-and-run offenders with images of their license plates.
How Does a Witness Statement Help My Case?
A car accident claim could boil down to your word against the other driver’s unless any witnesses can help prove liability. The police respond to most car accidents resulting in injuries and fatalities, and they will want to interview any witnesses at the scene. If you happened to miss your chance to speak with a witness and obtain his or her contact information, the police may have a record of it in their report for the collision.
A witness statement should only include the witness’s firsthand experiences related to the incident in question. The witness should only relay what he or she saw, heard, and noticed about the incident and refrain from making assumptions or judgments. For example, “the green ran the red light a few seconds after it changed to red” is a perfectly acceptable statement if true, whereas stating “I think the green car’s driver was speeding,” is not helpful because a witness cannot reliably claim to tell a driver’s speed by sight alone in a very short time.
Witnesses should report their firsthand experiences, location during an incident, and an explanation of what they were doing at the time of the incident. For example, if a pedestrian witness saw an accident occur at a nearby intersection, the witness should report his or her direction of travel at the time and a firsthand recollection of the events that transpired.
Witness Statements as Evidence
Admissibility is the determining factor in whether a witness statement plays any role in a trial. Witness statements confirmed and/or supported by an investigation and corroborated by other witness statements generally hold up as admissible evidence. However, hearsay does not, and witness statements that include secondhand information or a witness’s personal interpretations of an event are inadmissible as evidence.
If the witnesses who saw your accident report what they saw to the police, the police report will likely include details of their statements. Your attorney will want to depose the witnesses in your case to have recorded answers about their experiences during the event. Witnesses may or may not appear in trial; attorneys may simply decide to refer to their sworn testimonies and deposition answers, but it is very likely the witnesses will be required to personally testify as to the accuracy of their statements. This is a safeguard to ensure witness statements remain consistent as a case progresses, as inconsistencies generally indicate untruthfulness and unreliability.
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