The importance of having a credible witness to support a car accident claim cannot be emphasized enough. When these situations occur, claimants have an obvious interest in having things go their way, but this can make their words and actions seem biased to those who make the final decisions. Witnesses are generally deemed to be impartial, and can help the determination become much more favorable. There is more than one kind of witness, though.
What is Eyewitness Testimony?
Eyewitnesses are bystanders who are at the scene at the time of the accident. It could be a pedestrian, bicyclist or other motorist, a customer standing outside of a business located where the crash happened, or anyone else was there at the time. If the person was involved in the accident though, they might not be able to provide an objective, third-party statement. This also applies if the eyewitness is related to the accident survivor or the at-fault party, the testimony might be valuable in some respect, but the credibility could be called into question.
Other factors can also make an eyewitness’s statements open for challenge. For example, an individual could claim to have seen exactly what happened, but was not wearing their prescription glasses at the time. Or if the person was driving their own vehicle close to the crash when it happened, they might have swerved out of the way and been unable to see the accident. Things happen fast in crashes, and turning one’s eyes away for a few seconds could cause a recollection to be of little value.
Here are more considerations that can impact eyewitness testimony:
- Is the witness providing factual information, or their own biased opinions?
- What is the eyewitness’s background? Does the person have a criminal history, a reputation for dishonesty, or were they intoxicated when the crash occurred?
- Does the eyewitness have a vested interest in the outcome of the claim?
These are only a few questions to think about. Remember that insurance providers and legal teams will bring these topics up, so it is better to find out the answers before deciding to use an eyewitness’s testimony. In the worst case scenario, what they say could impact a claim in negative ways.
How Are Expert Witnesses Used in Claims?
These statements are not provided by bystanders; instead, they are given by experts in their fields. Finding one on your own is no easy matter, but an experienced car accident lawyer will be able to help with this. Expert witnesses offer testimony when issues are unclear, unless they are explained in more detail by those who are highly qualified to do so. One example might be a medical professional who could spell out how an accident is directly linked to a claimant’s injuries.
The credibility of an expert witness’s testimony could also be challenged, for similar reasons as eyewitnesses. The other side might state that the expert’s medical license expired, that the person has ties to the claimant and so forth. Choosing effective, appropriate witnesses is key to winning auto accident claims.
Do I Need Witnesses for My Auto Accident Claim?
This depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident, and your lawyer will be able to advise you about this. Eyewitnesses and expert witnesses are brought in to strengthen cases, and can provide strong evidence when there are questions about liability and damages. They can assist with proving innocence and liability, and can be on both sides of a claim in a single case. Witnesses can help both sides establish what really happened, and can help prove that someone was in the wrong. As an example, an eyewitness may have seen one driver texting when they rear-ended the other car even though the driver denied it. Additional proof might be needed for statements like this, but sometimes an at-fault party will admit a wrongdoing after being confronted.
If there were no eyewitnesses, you may be able to get witnesses to your injuries who are willing to help. Oftentimes, auto insurance providers dispute the severity of injuries caused in accidents, and are unwilling to pay the appropriate damages. Family members, co-workers, and friends may be able to give testimony about the injuries and how they affected your ability to perform day-to-day activities and work; they may also be able to describe the pain and suffering you have experienced. Law enforcement officers and other emergency responders who arrive at the scene can also provide testimony. It is always important to have a copy of the police report after a car accident as well.
Gathering Witnesses for Auto Accident Claims
Once a witness agrees to testify, your lawyer can start building an even stronger strategy to represent your needs. A credible witness can also help to create a reasonable doubt in the eyes of the court and share valuable, objective insights and clarifications to build a more comprehensive, well-rounded claim.
Eyewitness statements are the most common kind of witness statements and when it comes to finding ones to cooperate, time is of the essence. They should be obtained as soon as possible after a crash, while the details are still fresh in their minds. Once they are identified, you or your legal representative can ask them if they are willing to help. If permission is granted, they can be asked to describe the accident in detail and if they will make a statement to the police. If you can, be sure to get their full name and contact information when you are still at the scene.
You will need to know exactly where the person was at the time of the crash. Witnesses can also be asked if they heard the other driver say anything like “you came out of nowhere” or “it is my fault.” By the way, you can also find out if there were any surveillance cameras at the scene, and try to get permission to access the video.
Gaining an eyewitness’s permission to give a statement and knowing the right questions to ask at a scene can be very difficult for accident survivors, and sometimes it is only possible to get a name and phone number. Since memories fade fast, you will want to reach out to a car accident attorney right away and have them to the legwork – pushing too hard could alienate a witness and make them uncooperative.
Can My Own Statements Be Used Against Me?
Since you are the one impacted by the car accident and witnessed things first-hand, your testimony will also be relevant to your claim. That is why it is vital to keep your opinions to yourself and to never make statements to insurance companies or the other side without consulting your own attorney. Most people are not thinking clearly after crashes, and many will say things without thinking or realizing the possible implications.
When help arrives, offer a simple recounting of what happened and do not offer extra information. Never admit that you may have been at fault, and be cooperative with whoever is asking the questions. You will need to contact your insurance company soon after the accident, and follow the same guidelines. Ask the responding police about getting a report; in many cases, they will give you contact information for following up with the local department. This can take a few days or a week or so, and you will have to be patient. Of course if there are any injuries from the crash, taking care of medical needs is always the first priority.
The Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Use Witnesses to Help Their Clients Pursue Successful Car Accident Claims
If you were in a crash and need to build a strong claim, reach out to our skilled Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. Call us at 732-308-0200, or contact us online for a free initial consultation. From our Freehold, New Jersey office, we serve clients in Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.