Unless someone gets injured and decides to pursue a legal claim against another party, thoughts of how witnesses are used to strengthen cases might never enter their minds. It is important to know that after a car accident or other kind of unfortunate event leads to personal injuries, a plaintiff has the option of leveraging witness testimony to prove that a defendant was responsible for the damages. There may have been a person who saw the accident happen, an eyewitness; or an expert witness called in to provide testimony.
How Can an Eyewitness Help My Case?
A lack of solid evidence makes it difficult to prove liability, and it is all too common for people who are directly involved in car accidents to claim that the other driver was at fault. Therefore, insurance providers always ask if there were any eyewitnesses who can provide third-party objective insights as to what happened before, during, and after a collision. Many times, adjusters make their decisions based on this information, as long as the person offering it is credible. This is also crucial for workplace accidents and other events that lead to injuries and property damage. However, how is eyewitness credibility determined?
Accidents happen quickly, and if the witness did not have an optimum vantage point, they might not have been able to see things clearly. For example, a nearby driver or pedestrian attempting to avoid the accident may have been looking elsewhere for their own safety. They may also have been distracted by something else, such as a crying baby. Investigators will also want to know if the eyewitness saw part of or the whole crash, if they have impaired vision or hearing, were intoxicated at the time of the accident, and if they have any interest whatsoever in the outcome of the case.
The eyewitness’s background will also be investigated; if the person has a reputation for being dishonest, a convicted felon, or is related to or a friend of the plaintiff, their reported observations will come into question by the other party. Still, a strong witness with a good memory could be invaluable to your case.
What if the Eyewitness Is a Stranger?
When accident survivors know eyewitnesses, it is easier to speak with them about what happened. The information should be written down right away, since memories fade quickly. Take as many notes as possible, going over the facts carefully. This can be formatted into a statement afterwards. Law enforcement officers can also provide evidence as to the aftermath of an accident; this should be written up in a police report, which you can obtain from the local station.
If you notice an eyewitness at the scene, alert the officer, if one is there, or consider approaching the person on your own. Get their name, address, and contact information, and ask a few introductory questions. They may be willing to tell you what they saw, and where they were at the time of the accident. If the person is cooperative and wants to help, ask if they will let you write up what happened, explaining that you might require a written statement for your insurance claim. You can then send the person a copy and have them review it, sign it, and return it to you. Do not push too hard, as someone who seems uncomfortable might then become uncooperative and even angry.
Do I Need an Expert Witness?
Expert witnesses differ from eyewitnesses, because they are consulted after accidents to share specific expertise that may help a judge and/or jury realize:
- How an accident happened
- How serious the injuries really are, and the potential for them worsening in the future
- The extent of the property damage
- Other important information
Lawyers engage these specialists and share their expertise with courts. Examples of expert witnesses include accident reconstruction specialists, medical experts, and accountants. They can help establish who was responsible for an accident, the long-term medical implications, and accurate numbers for the amount of damages incurred by plaintiffs. Serious cases can get quite complicated, and these experts can provide a great deal of value to courts and plaintiffs.
What Are the Benefits of Using Witnesses?
Witness testimony can strengthen cases by offering important details that might suffice as evidence. For example, a bicyclist waiting at a stop sign might have seen one driver failing to stop and even speeding through an intersection. In other cases, such as civil suits, false accusations, and breaches of contract, they might have witnessed an accused party of breaking the law in other ways.
Once an eyewitness or expert witness agrees to provide testimony, your lawyer can be offered the tools to set up a strong strategy and also create reasonable doubt to the opposing party’s testimony. Expert witnesses are good for constructing comprehensive cases that clarify key details for judges and juries, and these insights often lead to better outcomes for legal teams and their clients.
Expert witnesses are not free of charge, but the costs can be well worth it in terms of case resolution and awarded damages. It is also important to know that certain rules apply to the use of expert witnesses, and that these specialists are the only kinds of witnesses who are permitted to share opinions with juries.
Experienced attorneys also seek out other possible witnesses who might also be able to attest to the extent of the injuries and damages in a claim. For example, a colleague might be willing to testify about how there were concerns that the company’s vehicle had not been properly maintained by a third party before a work-related car accident or about how the injured plaintiff was unable to perform their job responsibilities for months following the accident.
Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Understand the Importance of Witnesses in Court Cases
The skilled Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King recognize the importance of having witnesses in car accident cases and can design the best strategy for your case. Our experienced legal team will be your advocate and fight to secure full and fair compensation. Call us today at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland, we work with clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.