Auto accidents are traumatic and often confusing for all the people involved. When a driver is in shock, it can be difficult to recall the details of the accident clearly. Neither party wants to believe they had any fault in the accident, either, which is why it’s so important to rely on accident witnesses after a crash. These kinds of cases often come down to one word against another, but if you have reliable witness statements, you’ll have a better chance of a fair claims process and avoid being considered at-fault for an accident you didn’t cause.
This article will discuss how to get witness statements after an auto accident and how you can give yourself the best chance of compensation and recovery after a car accident.
The Importance of Having a Car Accident Witness
As the victim of a car accident caused by another’s carelessness, you deserve compensation for your injuries. Normally, the other driver’s insurance company will cover this — but only if you can prove the fault of their customer. In cases with limited evidence against either side, a car accident witness statement is critical and can make or break your chances of achieving a settlement.
Most of the time, witnesses are unbiased, which is why credible witness statements are so highly revered by courts and insurance companies. Witnesses have no personal or financial investment in the outcome of the case, so they can be trusted to provide a pure, unfiltered accounting of the accident as they saw it happen. If you have a strong recorded witness statement, you’re much more likely to be able to settle a car accident claim outside the courtroom.
How Witness Statements Are Used
If your case is ever taken to court, you can use any witness statements you have to your advantage. For example, a written witness statement can be used to prove that one of the drivers was overheard admitting fault. Statements can also be read aloud during testimony if the witness has a difficult time remembering the string of events. Sometimes, witness statements can even be used as evidence of an inconsistent testimony if one of the drivers involved changes their story in the courtroom.
How to Find a Witness for a Car Accident Case
When you know how to get witness statements after an auto accident, you’ll be better able to protect yourself. The police may not always collect witness statements; they’re not concerned with who is paying for the accident damage. They are only required to make an official report, gather the driver statements, determine fault, and cite whoever broke the traffic law that led to the crash.
After a vehicle accident, your first priority is your health and safety. Before you do anything else, seek medical attention and report the accident by calling 9-1-1. Then, after the crash scene has stabilized, start gathering witness statements if you have the physical ability. Look around for anyone nearby who may have seen the accident happen before they leave the area. Remember that these people are not legally obligated to provide witness statements, so respect their right not to comment.
As you approach the people around you, introduce yourself politely and ask if they saw the accident happen or if they witnessed any events that lead up to the crash. Do not try to influence their statement by saying things like, “Did you see that guy hit me?” Such questions might alienate the witness and make them feel less comfortable sharing what they saw. If they choose to provide a statement, be sure to record it — either on paper or on camera — and collect witness details if the person is willing to be contacted in the future.
If your witness opts to write the statement down, ask them to sign and date it. When collecting these details, the type of paper doesn’t matter, and you don’t need a witness or a notary to make the document official.
Types of People to Use as Witnesses
When choosing witnesses to ask for statements, consider the kinds of people that are the most reliable. Defense lawyers are likely to question the credibility of:
- Those with a criminal background;
- People with a record of mental instability;
- Those who wear corrective eyeglasses or hearing devices;
- Mothers who could have been distracted by their children; and
- Your friends, family, or acquaintances.
Knowing this, you can choose your witnesses more carefully. The following is a list of people you might consider getting witness statements from:
- Employees and customers of nearby businesses: If your accident occurred near a restaurant, shopping center, gym, or another type of commercial facility with a clear view of the road, it’s a good idea to stop in and ask if anyone inside saw the accident. They may be able to provide valuable insights.
- Construction workers: Construction zones are notorious for accidents. Changing traffic patterns and orange cones can create difficult driving situations that lead to accidents, so if your crash occurred in a work zone, talk to the workers and gather their statements, if possible.
- Pedestrians: When someone is walking down the street, they’re much more likely to notice an accident than adjacent drivers. Pedestrians have a clear, unobstructed view of the scene and can hear what’s going on better than nearby vehicles. If you see anyone on the street after the accident, these people make ideal witnesses.
- People who have stopped to help: If you were lucky enough to have someone stop and offer their help, don’t hesitate to ask this person what they saw. They might have information about the events that lead up to the accident; for example, they may have seen the other driver texting before he or she hit your vehicle.
- Security cameras: Not all your witnesses need to be people. In fact, security cameras on nearby ATMs and stores are some of the best witnesses available. Find out if any of the businesses around you have hidden cameras on their properties. They may have video surveillance footage of the accident.
Why You Still Need a Lawyer When You Have Witness Statements
Even the best and most reliable witnesses cannot replace a personal injury lawyer. You still need an experienced attorney to help you decide which witnesses will best help your case, and you need professional representation if your case goes to court. Shook & Stone will fight aggressively for your rights to compensation. Our legal team has already obtained $500 million for clients in the years past. Contact us today for a case consultation and get back on your feet.