Why Witness Statements After an Accident Are Important

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2020 | Personal Injury

If you have been in a car accident, you are likely to be stressed and overwhelmed with what to do next. Most people are fortunate enough to not have much experience with the legal system — yet this lack of familiarity can put you at a disadvantage in gathering evidence to support your claim. In these situations, working with a qualified personal injury law firm can be vital to obtaining fair compensation for your losses.

Witness statements are often a significant part of a car accident lawsuit. These written or recorded statements can be used in a number of ways to prove that the other party was at fault for the accident.

After a crash, a Miami car accident attorney can work with you to help you get the money that you need to get your life back on track. This may include gathering witness statements to support your case. Read on to learn why this type of evidence is so important to your claim.

How Witness Statements Can Support Your Claim

If you are in a car accident or any other type of collision in Florida, proving that another party was responsible is critical to recovering damages for your injuries. While there are a number of ways that this can be demonstrated, one of the strongest forms of evidence is witness statements.

Witnesses can include anyone who saw what happened. This may be a passenger in your vehicle or another car, pedestrians, drivers of other vehicles, or even the other driver involved in the crash. The most credible witness statements are those from people who don’t have an interest in the outcome of your case, such as onlookers.

Here are a few key ways that witness statements can support your claim:

Proving Your Version of Events

Witnesses can help you prove that the other party was at fault for the collision. The testimony of eyewitnesses can be a crucial part of a personal injury case, laying out how the accident occurred. These statements can also help to preserve the facts of the case.

Promoting Settlements

Statements from witnesses can also promote settlements. While each driver may have their own version of events, if a disinterested third party witness gives a statement about what happened, the insurance company may be more likely to settle.

Use at Trial

If your case does to trial, witness statements can be key in proving to the judge or jury that you were not at fault for an accident. If the witness is unavailable to testify, these statements may also be introduced at trial to confirm that the accident was the fault of the other driver.

While most personal injury cases settle prior to trial, if your case does end up in court, there are a number of ways that witness statements can be used at trial under the Florida Rules of Evidence. This includes:

  • Refreshing Recollection: if a witness does not remember what happened, they can use the written version of their statement to refresh their memory.
  • Prior Inconsistent Statement: if a witness has changed their story, your Miami car accident lawyer can use their written statement to make them explain why their version of events has changed.
  • Party Admission: if the other driver admitted fault after the accident or gave statement about what happened, this can be used against them in court. Unless, the statement was given to an investigating police officer

Importantly, there are numerous studies that show that eyewitness testimony may be unreliable, particularly over time. That is why it is vital to obtain witness statements as soon as possible after an accident; they will likely be more accurate than a statement taken weeks or months after the crash.

Getting Witness Statements After a Car Accident

The period of time after a car accident is critical to gathering evidence to support your case. Your first priority should be getting medical attention, particularly if you are seriously injured;  However, if you are able to do so, you can take steps to secure witness statements.

Before the police arrive, look for people at the scene who may have witnessed the crash and might be able to provide a statement.  Eyewitnesses may include a range of people, such as individuals who stopped to help after the collision, pedestrians or bicyclists, construction workers, drivers and/or occupants of other vehicles involved in the accident, and anyone in a nearby business or house.

If you can, approach people who may have seen what happened and ask if they saw the crash.  If they did, ask them for their name and contact information, then ask if they can describe what they saw and heard.  Remember that witnesses are not legally obligated to remain at the crash site or to talk to you, so act quickly and be polite when making this request.

The best witness statements are those that are unbiased and trustworthy. While a witness statement can be taken from anyone at the scene, you should ask questions that will help you determine their reliability. For example, you may ask if the witness was able to see the events that led up to the accident as well as the crash itself.

There are a number of ways that you can record a witness statement directly after an accident.  If you have paper and a pen in your vehicle, ask the witness to write down what they saw, then sign and date it. With their permission, you could also take an audio or video recording of their statement.

At a minimum, you should collect the name and contact information for each potential witness.  Remember that memories tend to fade over time, so the sooner that you get a statement, the better.

Finally, because statements of the parties to a legal claim are admissible in court, keep in mind that any statement that you make could be used against you. This includes something as simple as apologizing to the other driver or telling someone that you didn’t see the other car until it was too late.  If the other driver makes a statement to you, take detailed notes, as whatever they say that was against their own interest could be used against them.

Our law firm hires private investigators to canvass the area and look for anyone who may have witnessed the accident. That means knocking door to door, and looking for businesses with video cameras. We leave no stone unturned.

Ready to Learn More? Contact Us Today.

If you have been in a car accident, know that you are not alone. A Miami car accident attorney can support you throughout the process, from gathering evidence to dealing with the insurance company to negotiating or litigating a settlement or award for your damages.

At Kaire & Heffernan, we focus our practice on all types of personal injury claims. With more than 20 years of experience representing victims of car accidents and other types of accidents, we have the knowledge and skill to get you the compensation that you deserve. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation, contact us today at 305-376-7860 or reach out online.

Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 30 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for many years.