How to Locate and Utilize Witnesses in Your Injury Claim
One of the most difficult aspects of any personal injury claim is proving liability for your damages. If another party caused your injury either directly or indirectly through negligence, you must find some way to prove your allegations and hold the responsible party accountable. Witnesses are an essential part of virtually every injury claim, so potential plaintiffs need to know how to locate and utilize witnesses to full effect in their injury claims.
Some personal injury events may afford a victim the opportunity to collect witness information immediately. For example, if a driver suffers minor but noticeable injuries in an accident with an intoxicated driver, the injured driver should see if any passersby or other drivers who stopped near the crash saw the accident occur. If you find yourself in this situation, take down the names and contact information of the witnesses in the immediate area. This information will be incredibly valuable to a future injury claim.
Every state requires drivers to report accidents that result in death, injury, or substantial property damage. If the police arrive at your accident scene or you call the police to notify them of the accident, do not leave the scene until the responding officers allow you to do so. The police will want to interview everyone involved in the accident and create a police report. This document will also include the names and contact information of witnesses interviewed by the police. In case you missed anyone immediately after the accident or were unable to secure witness information yourself, the police report may have what you need to locate the witnesses for your injury claim.
Things to Remember About Witness Reliability
Time is a critical factor in any injury claim, but this is especially true when it comes to locating witnesses who could support your injury claim. Human memory is fallible and worsens with time. Locating a witness days after your accident is significantly better than finding one months later as the statute of limitations starts drawing to a close and the witness’s recollection of key details fades.
Witnesses can include pedestrians near the scene of an accident, other drivers, emergency responders, and even the responding police officers who arrive at the scene first. These individuals can help confirm the sequence of events surrounding the accident, the positions and traveling directions of the vehicles involved, and the actions of another driver. For example, a paramedic may have noticed an empty alcohol bottle fall out of one of the vehicles after responding to the accident scene.
Bringing Witnesses Into Your Injury Claim
If you require witness testimony to pursue your lawsuit, your injury attorney will need to summon the witnesses available in the case to testify under oath. Usually, a civil claim will involve several rounds of official, on-the-record questionings. Both sides will have the chance to ask questions of the other side’s witnesses during depositions. A plaintiff may ask a witness to provide a sworn statement of his or her recollection of events, and whether the witness must appear in court depends on the complexity of the individual case. A sworn statement may be as far as a witness’s involvement goes in an injury claim, or a witness may need to appear in court at least once.
Most witnesses are generally cooperative and willing to provide statements and answer questions as needed while others may be more resistant to contributing toward an accident claim. If your case hinges on witness testimony, your accident attorney may move to subpoena a witness to compel him or her to provide a statement under oath or testify in trial. Ultimately, obtaining witness information as soon as possible after an accident and securing sworn statements while witnesses’ memories are still fresh is one of the best ways to protect your interests in an injury claim.