How to Obtain Witness Statements After a Car Accident
After a car crash, it may be difficult to deal with the situation logically. Read this article to prepare yourself to act decisively after an accident and secure one of the most distinctive elements of a potential compensation claim—witness testimonies.
Witness testimonies are one of the most distinctive elements of a personal injury claim. Often, the success of your claim and your prospects of satisfactory compensation will depend on tracking down the witnesses of the accident and obtaining their statements. A detailed testimony from a few trustworthy eyewitnesses may corroborate and reinforce the version of events presented by one party while disproving the statement of the other.
A lack of testimonial evidence, on the other hand, may call into question your account of the accident and make your claim information seem unreliable. It may also require your attorney to dedicate more time and resources to gather other sorts of evidence to support your injury claim.
After a car accident, however, when the situation is tense, emotions run high. Plus, when both injuries and adrenaline cloud a person’s judgment, it is not easy to think clearly. Therefore, a responsible driver should think and plan out beforehand how to act in the case of a crash. Your action plan should include steps you can take with your potential personal injury claim in mind, including how you will approach potential witnesses and obtain their statements.
Collect Witness Statements Right at the Scene of the Crash
Right after the crash, your safety and the safety of other users of the road should be the highest priority. Your primary concern, therefore, is to ensure whether you or other drivers involved in the collision need any immediate medical assistance. If the damaged vehicles are positioned in a way that could disturb the traffic and become a hazard, you should move them to a secure spot on the side of the road.
Only after you have taken such basic precautions and only if you perceive no immediate danger to your safety may you start taking steps towards your future injury claim. In addition, it is vital to remember that you should visit a doctor to receive a medical checkup afterward—even if your injuries seem minor or insignificant, or even if you don’t seem to have any visible injuries. (Medical records from as soon after the accident as possible will also help strengthen your case.)
If you can locate one or more witnesses at the scene, you may approach them to ask if they are willing to provide their contact information and a basic statement. You should also remember that you may be required by law to call the police to the scene of the crash.
In New Mexico, circumstances in which it is obligatory to notify the police of the accident include:
- When the accident resulted in bodily injury
- When the accident resulted in death
- When the resulting property damage seems to be in excess of $500
If it is necessary to call the police, the law enforcement officer will be responsible for taking witness testimonies. Later, these will be included in the police report of the accident. However, you may still approach witnesses to obtain their contact information.
If witnesses leave the site of the collision before the police arrive or before you can safely approach them, you may have to return to the location at a later time and make an effort to find any potential witnesses. While this may not be easy, it may help to visit any residential buildings or businesses in the area to request information about the accident.
What to Include in a Witness Statement
Contrary to popular belief, an eyewitness testimony that you take at the scene of the crash doesn’t have to be elaborate, nor extremely detailed. Usually, it is vital to ensure that the following information is included:
- Basic contact information of each witness
- Date and time of the collision
- Location of the accident with a short description of the surroundings
- Witnesses’ positions in relation to the accident scene
- Description of the circumstances of the accident
- Description of the vehicles involved in the accident
- Description of how and why the accident occurred (according to each witness)
- Vehicles’ positions right after the crash
It is important to remember that a witness statement should be signed by the witness in order to confirm the truthfulness of the facts presented in it. A statement that isn’t signed will not be counted as reliable evidence.
Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
When injured in an accident, you may not have the time, physical strength, or mental capacity to collect witness statements right at the scene of the crash. Under these circumstances, you may be able to obtain any witnesses’ contact information later on, as they will likely be mentioned in the police report of the collision. Nevertheless, contacting witnesses and collecting as well as organizing their statements in preparation for a personal injury claim may be extremely difficult if you are still recuperating.
This is where professional help from an experienced car accident attorney may prove to be invaluable. A personal injury lawyer will be able to provide comprehensive legal assistance and take over all aspects of your injury claim or even a potential lawsuit. If you decide to work with an attorney, he or she will contact the witnesses to obtain their statements and build a strong claim. In virtually all cases, working with an attorney greatly increases your chances of obtaining fair, satisfactory compensation for your injuries.