When a vehicle collision occurs, both parties may attempt to prove a lack of fault. In these cases, a neutral, third-party eyewitness may help establish the facts of the case.
An eyewitness can be anyone who was present at the time of the accident and was able to observe what happened before, during, and after the crash. These people may include:
Your passengers, the other driver, or anyone else involved in the accident are parties present at the time of the collision, but their testimony may not be considered reliable or impartial due to their involvement. They have a vested interest in the outcome of the claim.
After an accident, the priority is to get to a safe place and get any needed medical attention. Gathering information about the accident, including witness information, is the next important step. Evidence may either be gathered right after the accident or later when revisiting the scene.
While at the scene of the accident, try to speak to anyone who saw what happened before and during the crash. Ask them for a name and contact information and whether they would be willing to give a statement on what they saw.
It is important to reach out to witnesses promptly at the scene if possible. Most witnesses are also in transit and may not be at the location later, making it hard to find them and get a statement in the future.
Obtaining witness statements sooner rather than later is also more effective because people tend to forget what they saw over time, which could damage their credibility during testimony at trial or in a deposition.
Sometimes, gathering witness information at the scene of the accident right afterward may not be possible. You may be too physically injured, or it may be too dangerous to get out of your vehicle and survey the scene.
However, you or your attorney could revisit the scene later and talk to people in nearby businesses or houses who may have been present when the accident happened. For example, a clerk at a gas station could prove to be a reliable eyewitness. Someone sitting on his or her front porch may have also witnessed the crash.
Most car accident claims settle outside of the courtroom. Some cases do proceed to trial, often due to difficulty determining liability.
When complex claims do go to trial, having a strong argument is necessary to convince the jury that your injuries were caused by the negligence of another driver. Eyewitness testimony may be essential evidence for proving liability.
When involved parties cannot come to an agreement on a settlement amount or on liability for the accident, the case may go to trial.
Witness statements are generally gathered at the beginning of the claims process before a lawsuit is filed. During the discovery phase of a case, your attorney may provide an eyewitness statement that implicates the other driver. This may persuade his or her insurer to offer a settlement to avoid going to court, where a jury could potentially make them pay much more than they want to.
Following is a hypothetical example of a liability dispute resolved by eyewitness testimony:
While driving the speed limit, you turn on your blinker, look in your rearview mirror, and check your blind spot before starting to change lanes. As you proceed to enter the lane, you collide with another car that recklessly swerved into the same lane without warning.
You and the other driver pull over and get out of your vehicles to assess the damage. The other driver claims that you were at fault for the accident.
Without an eyewitness to verify that you properly indicated your intention to change lanes, the insurance company may deny liability. A credible eyewitness may help establish proof that you were adhering to traffic codes and driving defensively.
The car accident lawyers in Sacramento at the Arnold Law Firm have more than four decades of experience gathering witness statements and depositions before a trial. Our focus is on the representation of the injured California residents, and we have obtained millions on their behalf.
No cost. No obligation. Call us today at (916) 777-7777.