The Importance of Collecting Witness Statements After an Auto Accident
After a vehicle accident, you may have sustained injuries as well as economic losses and wonder which parties are responsible. If you plan to pursue legal action against an at-fault driver, then it is crucial to understand how important witnesses are to your case. It’s likely that at least one person aside from you and the other driver saw what transpired, and witness statements will play crucial roles in an auto accident lawsuit.
If you were injured in an auto accident, get in contact with a Houston car crash lawyer today.
How to Collect Witness Statements
After an auto accident, it is generally good form for any witnesses who saw what happened to remain at the site until the police arrive. The police will try to question everyone involved in the crash and everyone nearby who saw what happened. The officers will then include those statements in their police report for the accident. However, it’s also important for anyone injured in an auto accident to obtain the contact information from witnesses at the crash site, if possible.
If you plan to pursue legal action for a car accident, then your attorney will need as much evidence as possible to build a strong case. Some car accidents such as rear-end collisions and DUI accidents are straightforward and the fault is easily apparent. However, some accidents are more complex or may involve multiple vehicles, making it more difficult to determine fault. Witnesses can help your attorney understand how the accident happened. They may also be able to clarify any other statements provided by others at the accident scene and corroborate your own account of the event.
Witness statements don’t just go into the police report. Your attorney may depose them if your case proceeds to trial and take a sworn statement under oath to submit into evidence. In some cases, witnesses may need to testify in a trial. Insurance companies may also wish to hear from eyewitnesses if they have any reason to doubt the validity of your claim or your description of how your accident happened.
Why Are Witness Statements Crucial?
Witness statements are just one type of evidence, but they are the easiest to preserve. After a car accident, the police will want to clear the site of debris and restore the flow of traffic as soon as possible. This may cause you to lose valuable physical evidence from the accident site. Additionally, traffic camera data and crash data from the involved vehicles’ computers may be difficult to interpret without corroboration.
The burden of proof rests on the accuser in any civil action. The plaintiff in an auto accident case must be able to prove that the defendant was negligent. They must also prove that the damages claimed in the lawsuit are the direct results of the defendant’s negligence and not some other cause. Finally, plaintiffs must also provide evidence that shows the extent of their claimed damages. While it may be impossible to preserve an accident scene for physical evidence, and electronic data may be unreliable, witness statements can often form the backbone of auto accident lawsuits.
What Should a Witness Statement Cover?
If your attorney questions a witness to your accident, he or she should as several key questions, including:
- When and how the witness arrived at the scene
- What the witness saw before, during, and after the event in question
- What direction the witness was traveling at the time of the event
- The distance from which the witness observed the event in question
- How clear the witness’s view of the event was for the conditions at the time
Witnesses shouldn’t speculate; they should only report what they saw, heard, and experienced firsthand. If a witness provides a statement to the police, an attorney who questions the witness later will look for consistency in his or her answers. Ultimately, a plaintiff in an auto accident lawsuit may have no choice but to rely on witness statements to succeed with a lawsuit.