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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
Before using a witness statement in your claim, your lawyer will vet the witness for credibility.
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:
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 neutral third-party witness may:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Your personal injury lawyer can answer "how important are witness statements?" in personal injury claims and for your insurance company.
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:
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.
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.
Call us for a free case review where we can talk through what happened and what options you may have.