8 Things to Ask the Witness of Your Car Accident
Witnesses can play a critical role in car accident cases. When physical evidence is inconclusive, witness testimony is helpful at assigning fault for the crash. At Surasky Law, our Aiken personal injury lawyer always encourages accident victims to identify witnesses to their case. If you have been involved in a wreck, please call us today.
What To Ask Witnesses
DO ask for their name and contact information. You will need some way of getting in touch with the witness, so asking for contact information makes sense. For example, a witness will probably need to speak to an insurance adjuster as well as each side’s lawyer. Witnesses probably also need to answer questions in a deposition. Once a witness leaves the scene of an accident, they become hard to track down later. Get a phone number or email address.
DO share your own contact information in return. They might want to get in touch with you, also, so go ahead and give your name and a way to reach you. Car accident cases can take years to reach a resolution, and your witness could move before the end. They need a way to contact you, too.
DO ask them to stick around to talk with the police. You should call the cops after an accident in South Carolina. An officer typically comes to the scene to create a crash report, which usually contains the names of witnesses. You should have the witness talk to the cop.
DO ask them where they were during the accident. A witness’ location makes a great deal of difference. Someone who was farther away probably saw less clearly than someone who was closer to the wreck. Someone three cars behind the accident probably saw less than a passenger in the car that hit you. You will want to know where they were located during the crash to help judge the value of their testimony.
DO ask open-ended questions about the crash. It’s okay to find out what people saw. However, you want to avoid trying to put words in someone’s mouth. An open-ended question like, “What did you see?” is better than “You saw the red car crash into me, right?” Other questions like, “Where did that red car come from?” are also okay, especially if you really don’t know.
DO ask witnesses to be as detailed as possible. Some people will remember more detail with a little bit of prompting. As an example, they might have seen a driver make a right-hand turn without coming to a complete stop first. You can follow up with, “Did you see the driver?” or “Was the driver doing anything?” These follow-up questions are a good way of finding out whether the driver was on a cell phone in the seconds before the crash.
DO ask what the witness was doing before the crash. This information also helps us get a better sense of the value of a witness testimony. If someone was on their phone before the accident, they might have been distracted and not really “seen” the wreck. Specifically, being on a cell phone can create a cognitive distraction that lasts 27 seconds or longer.
DO ask if the witness heard the other driver say anything. Any statements made at the scene might be relevant later, such as at trial.
What to AVOID Telling Witnesses
DON’T offer to share your settlement with a witness. It’s tempting to offer a witness an incentive to stay at the scene of the accident, but offering to pay would render their testimony worthless.
DON’T offer your own version of events. This is a way to unduly influence a witness to “adopt” your own version of what happened.
DON’T argue with witnesses. Let your attorney identify which witnesses are useful and which ones aren’t. Your attorney can also figure out why a witness might think they saw something which they didn’t. It is not unusual for witnesses to be confused.
Speak with Our Aiken, SC Personal Injury Attorney
In many accidents, witnesses provide key pieces of evidence to help us judge who is at fault. Remember, under South Carolina law, a motorist will not need to pay compensation for your injuries if they were not at least partially at fault for a wreck. For more information, contact Surasky Law today. We offer free consultations for anyone who is considering a lawsuit or a claim for compensation.