Immediately after a motor vehicle wreck, many victims are not only mentally shaken but physically injured as well.
Usually distraught, they’re not thinking ahead should there be a lawsuit later, understandably so. Few people in an accident think ‘I need to get some witnesses now.’ Instead, most assume that the other party or the insurance company will ‘do the right’ when the time comes. It’s not wrong to hope for a good outcome, but as lawyers, we see the other side all too often when victims are left holding the bag through no fault of their own. So, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan, just in case.
Get Medical Care First
The reality is that immediately after an accident, take care of your health. Get medical help if you or your passenger(s) are injured. While it’s essential to address your injuries, if you’re able, you should also think about how you would prove what happened if you end up in court.
Why Find Witnesses?
Many articles discuss the steps you should take immediately following a car wreck, often providing sound advice. However, the most important thing you can do after a smash-up is to find witnesses.
Even if the case is straightforward; for instance, the sued driver was drunk or violated a traffic signal that resulted in the crash, the insurance company may still deny your claim for personal injury. Without a witness, you reduce your legal options, and the insurance company many times refuses to offer a settlement voluntarily.
Where to Find Independent Witnesses?
- Others who stopped
- Businesses Nearby (Employees or customers)
- Emergency Responders
How to Find Witnesses?
After addressing your injuries, you should report the incident to the local police and wait for the police officer to arrive. Timing is the most critical factor in getting witnesses. The sooner you find them, the more valuable it will be. Not only is it more difficult to find witnesses after a significant time after the incident, such as a week or month, it also undermines the credibility of the witness in the eyes of the jury. If you can find a witness after a long lapse of time, the individual won’t remember many of the details of the incident.
When to Find Witnesses?
The ideal time to find witnesses is while you wait for the police to arrive. Look around the scene for people paying attention to the incident. You may even ask a passenger to help you find witnesses.
What Witnesses Info To Get?
As you approach people, ask for their names and contact information first. If they seem willing, ask them if they are ready to help as a witness for your case and provide testimony if required. If they agree, inform them that your attorney might contact them later to collect a brief statement.
Depending on the situation and how keen the person is, you may even be able to collect their statement at the scene as well. Use your phone camera or voice recorder to record the account and request the witness to write down what they saw and sign the statement. If they’re reluctant, write it down yourself and get it signed by the witness.
However, if the witness seems unwilling or uncomfortable, note down the name and contact information and avoid pushing them for more.
Remember, if the police arrive on the scene, they will be looking for witnesses as well. If you’ve found witnesses be sure to let the police know about them so they can include them in their report. Should the police choose not to come out to the accident, make sure you file an accident report online or in person at the police station.
Finally, if you couldn’t manage to get a witness at the incident scene or afterward, the best way is to approach an attorney. Accident attorneys have numerous tools at their disposal to locate witnesses, as well as procure statements from uncooperative witnesses.