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Why Are Witness Statements Important In Seattle Accident Claims?

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    Why Are Witness Statements Important In Seattle Accident Claims?

    One of the most important things we advise anyone to do in the event of a car crash is to get the name and contact information of any witnesses that can be found. Of course, it goes without saying that getting first aid if needed and reporting the accident to the police are essential steps, but identifying witnesses and getting statements about what they saw can be crucial to successfully secure compensation for an injured driver.

    After a crash, it can be easy to overlook the importance of witness testimony of the collision, especially in one of the deadliest years in Seattle’s traffic accident history.

    What Is a Witness Statement?

    Witness statements are written accounts of the observations of witnesses to the accident. They are informally worded documents that set forth what your passengers or passersby saw of the accident.

    The importance of eyewitness in an injury claim also reinforces your claims for damages, citing the impact the injuries have had on your work life or ability to live independently.

    Witness statements with specific details that compare your current abilities with your capabilities before the crash can help build your case that the accident has been life-altering.

    Who Can Be a Witness to a Car Accident?

    importance of witness testimony

    Anyone who witnessed the collision or has firsthand knowledge of the aftereffects on your life can be a witness in a car collision lawsuit. A variety of perspectives from people who see different aspects of your life gives a judge and jury a better picture of the significant impact of the injuries on your life.

    Possible witnesses in a car crash claim can include:

    • Passengers in your vehicle
    • Passersby who saw the collision
    • Your co-workers who notice a change in your abilities or personality
    • Your boss, who may have had to offer light duty or a job change because of your injures
    • Your family members, who see how your injuries make it hard for you to care for yourself

    The people above would be considered eyewitnesses in your case, but your Seattle car collision lawyer may call another type of witness for your case — an expert witness, often a medical professional who can explain how your injury occurred or how your chronic pain and limitations need ongoing care.

    What Is a Credible Witness in a Car Accident Case?

    Are witness statements evidence in a car wreck? They can be a solid component, depending on the witness's credibility. A witness that comes off as untrustworthy or dishonest can do your case more harm than good.

    A credible witness:

    • Has a reputation for honesty
    • Doesn't have a stake in the outcome of your case
    • Has a clean criminal record or background
    • Does not have cognitive impairment or memory problems
    • Provides consistent statements throughout the proceeding
    • Was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash

    Before using a witness statement in your claim, your lawyer will vet the witness for credibility.

    What Information Should I Ask a Witness to Provide?

    Your personal injury lawyer may ask you for some witnesses for your case, both those who saw the accident and those who can attest to its impact on your life. Some information you should ask witnesses for includes:

    • Their name and contact information
    • Any photos or videos they may have taken of the accident
    • An account of what they saw

    If you don’t get a chance to collect this in the chaos following the collision, write down physical descriptions of witnesses you noted or their vehicles and give them to your attorney.

    A Witness Can Support Your Claim in Several Ways

    A neutral third-party witness may:

    • Support your claim that you were following traffic rules and posted speed limits at the time of the accident.
    • Help prove the fault of the other driver, such as noting that the other party ran a red light or was speeding.
    • Supporting your claims of injury, stating how they saw you get hurt when the wreck happened.
    • Supporting your claims of life-changing injury by offering a before and after witness to your capabilities.

    An eyewitness can also be used to discredit the other driver's claims. For example, if they see the other driver walking around without injury, this can be used to dispute the other party’s claims.

    How Witness Statements Can Support Your Personal Injury Claim

    If you’re planning to file a disability claim with your insurance company after a car accident, witness statements can be significant evidence in your favor. Disability insurers are required by federal law to provide “full and fair consideration” for evidence submitted in a disability claims appeal.

    This evidence includes witness statements relevant to the case and your injuries and expert witness statements that corroborate your injuries or onset of a chronic health condition (such as a herniated disc or traumatic brain injury) or other hidden injuries suffered after a car accident.

    Witnesses Help Us Prove What Happened

    What is the importance of witnesses in a case when you have other evidence, like medical records? Building a case includes third-party witness accounts because Washington car accident lawyers must have evidence to demonstrate that the other party is at fault. Many car accident cases are built on the testimony of eyewitnesses, and in order for a lawyer to understand the strength of a case, they must obtain witness statements.

    In general, witness statements are best taken as soon as possible. Legal scholars and psychologists have developed a deep body of research that shows human memory can be very flawed. Over time, bias creeps into the stories people tell, and witnesses often take in additional information and incorporate it into their story. People also simply forget what happened.  Statements obtained right away are likely to be more accurate than later statements.

    Witness statements are most credible when the witness does not have any self interest involved.  The testimony of your family and friends who were in the car with you are worth something, but generally not as much as a bystander who has no connection to the parties involved in the collision.  Locating these witnesses and getting a detailed statement from them is often one of the most important things that an investigating personal injury attorney can do.  

    Statements Can Promote Settlement

    A car accident claim begins with a discovery phase, where each side explores the evidence the other side has. This gives both sides a good understanding of how the case might play out in court. Lawyers and their clients can estimate their odds of winning and decide whether it would be preferable to settle and avoid the risk. From a settlement standpoint, the answer to "what is the importance of witness statements?" is clear.

    Additionally, discovery will sometimes simply bring one side to the realization that they were in the wrong. For example, an eyewitness statement that a driver was playing with the radio at the time of the accident might encourage that driver’s insurance company to settle.

    Prior Statements Can Have Enormous Value in Court

    why are witness statements important

    Perhaps most importantly, the importance of witness statements should not be underestimated in court. Here are a few ways they can be deployed under Washington State evidentiary laws:

    • Prior inconsistent statement: This is the big one. If a witness starts testifying against you and it is the first time you have heard the witness’s story, then your lawyer is stuck trying to poke holes in the story on the spot. With a prior statement in hand, that witness must tell the exact same story he or she told before. If they stray from their witness statement, your lawyer can force them to explain why they have changed their story. The prior witness statement may even be entered into evidence.
    • Party admission: This is perhaps the most dangerous use of a witness statement. Courts assume that witnesses will not make false statements against their interests. So, if a driver hits your car and then runs up to say “I’m sorry that was my fault,” that statement can usually be entered into evidence.
    • Refreshing memory: If you have a great witness that gets on the stand and starts forgetting details, the witness can usually take out their previous statement and use it to help remember.
    • Recorded recollection: If you have a witness that totally goes blank, the witness will often be allowed to simply read directly from his or her previous statement.

    Your personal injury lawyer can answer "how important are witness statements?" in personal injury claims and for your insurance company.  

    How Lehmbecker Law Firm Can Help You

    Your auto injury lawyer at Lehmbecker Law will determine how much compensation you are entitled to for your car accident based on our decades of settlement experience in valuing:

    • Past and future medical bills
    • Pain & suffering
    • Past and future wage loss if you cannot work
    • Lost value on your car (diminished value claim)
    • Loss of consortium (claim for damages suffered by the spouse or family member of a person who has been injured or killed.)

    We understand the importance of witness statements for car accidents and use them in your case. Recognizing we offer protection from unknowingly accepting a lowball insurance offer will give you peace of mind, so contact us today.

    Do Not Let Your Statements Be Used Against You!

    Witness statements can just as easily be used against you. If you are in an accident, you should never allow yourself to be talked into making a statement to the other side or even to your own insurance company without advice from your own lawyer first.

    Contact Lehmbecker Law Today

    Contact Lehmbecker Law Today

    Call us for a free case review where we can talk through what happened and what options you may have.

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    Larry A. Lehmbecker
    Firm Founder, Larry Lehmbecker, has nearly 40 year’s of experience fighting for the injured in Washington State. He is always eager to share his knowledge to help those in need.
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