The Role of Witnesses in Car Accident Cases
After a car accident, there are typically several parties who need to know the details of the event. Insurance agencies, attorneys, and other drivers have skin in the game when it comes to recalling the accident.
The problem is that there’s so much happening during a car accident that it can often be challenging to determine exactly what happened. In these situations, witnesses and their testimonies become incredibly useful.
What Is a Witness?
A witness is an individual that testifies under oath in a trial. This is generally a person that has first-hand knowledge about the crime or the people involved within it.The testimony of a witness must be in line with applicable rules of evidence.
In addition to testifying in court, a car accident lawyer can also ask a witness to view or sign legal documents, such as a Power of attorney (POA) or a Last Will.
Types of Witnesses in Car Accident Cases
There are three main types of witnesses in any given court case: eyewitnesses, expert witnesses, and character witnesses.
Eyewitnesses are people who saw the accident happen and can provide testimony about what they saw. In car accident claims, an eyewitness is someone who observed the accident in progress, as well as any pedestrians or drivers semi-involved in the events of the accident.
For example, say an SUV swerved and caused an accident due to a construction worker running into the street. In this scenario, the construction worker, and any coworkers or drivers who saw, would be eyewitnesses.
Statements from eyewitnesses can sometimes be questionable and tell contradicting sides of a story, but they often have a larger impact on a verdict than other forms of evidence. If a car accident case has several eyewitnesses, an attorney will usually look for consistency in witness statements to validate important facts.
Expert witnesses are specialized professionals who can provide expert testimony on technical or scientific aspects of the case. Examples of expert witnesses for car accident cases include physicians, accident reconstructionists, engineers, and forensic scientists.
Because of their well-researched experience, testimonies from expert witnesses are generally accepted as reliable in court proceedings.
Character witnesses in car accident cases are individuals who can provide testimony about the character and behavior of one of the parties involved in the accident.
In these cases, character witnesses may be family members, friends, or acquaintances who can speak to the driving history and behavior of one of the drivers involved in the accident. For example, a character witness may testify that the driver in question has a history of reckless driving or has a habit of speeding.
While character witnesses are more common in criminal trials vs. car accident cases, their testimony can still be valuable. In the event where there’s a dispute about who is at fault, testimony from a character witness can vouch for responsible driving habits or behavior and ultimately help sway the outcome of the case.
How Car Accident Lawyers Use Witness Testimony
To gather testimony, an attorney will contact and interview witnesses. They will often preserve these interviews through either audio/video recordings, or written statements. Some law firms, in fact, recommend bypassing insurance statements and instead going straight to a legal entity. These conversations will help the attorney decide whom to call as a witness in court.
TItle V of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requires prosecutors to provide the defendant copies of materials and evidence that the prosecution intends to use at trial – including witness testaments. This formal information exchange is called discovery, and continues throughout the lifespan of a car accident case. A failure of the prosecutor to comply with the discovery processes can lead to court fines and sanctions.
Ultimately, by providing additional details and corroborating evidence, witnesses can help establish fault and provide a clearer picture of what happened leading up to a vehicle accident. Understanding the different types of witnesses and testimony procedures will better prepare you to handle your car accident case.