Witnessing a car accident could make you feel confused about what to do. While the law does not obligate you to give any statement, your testimony could play a vital role in helping those involved in a crash. You might be preserving someone’s ability to claim damages when you see a car accident and stop to help. The information you provide as an expert witness can help explain how the collision happened and who was at fault. It can give the jury and the insurance companies insight into the incident. It is brave and honorable to stay and assist at the scene of an accident. Don’t be reluctant to step in and help those in need. If you feel pressured and fear liability, seek guidance from an experienced attorney.
Types of witnesses in car accidents
The passengers of the vehicles involved in the collision are the most evident expert witnesses to a car accident. Their statements, while significant, lack credibility because they might be friends and relatives of the drivers. Apart from them, some unbiased witnesses could be present. They might be pedestrians, other car drivers, passengers of other vehicles, nearby building occupants, and emergency personnel.
Remember that a witness may still be able to offer helpful information even if they did not see the actual collision. For instance, a witness might have seen one of the drivers fail to signal their turn. Similarly, a person who did not witness the crash might have noticed that one of the drivers appeared hurt or intoxicated after it happened.
Depending on the circumstances, witnesses may also overhear drivers or passengers making incriminating remarks that may be admissible in court. Witnesses provide relevant information about an accident and help strengthen a case. Whether an insurance claim or a lawsuit, they can provide critical evidence. Based on their credibility, witnesses could be of the following types.
People directly involved in the accident and interested in the outcome of the case are first-party witnesses. For instance, the car driver is an active participant and has a financial stake in how any ensuing insurance dispute or legal action turns out. Likewise, passengers involved in an accident are crucial witnesses but aren’t always objective. They may know the other drivers involved in the accident or are related to them. They can also file their passenger injury claim following an accident.
These on-the-scene witnesses are crucial to fact-finders and adjusters. They are impartial as they have no personal connection to the accident’s participants and no financial stake in the case outcome. Concerned authorities typically get information from these eyewitnesses about what they witnessed. They play a significant role in determining fault and liability. Examples of potential third-party witnesses include pedestrians, cyclists, shopkeepers, and residents.
Various expert witnesses take specialized training, gain experience, and provide a sound opinion in a case. A car driver involved in a collision may hire an accident reconstruction expert to examine the evidence and access the situation. The professional delivers detailed information and analysis based on their expertise in the field. They assist in writing a report about the occurrence of an accident and proving fault for the incident.
The credibility of all witnesses
Just because a person saw an accident does not make the witness dependable. For many reasons, witnesses might not be able to recall an accident accurately. During a car accident, things happen quickly, like a rapid-fire event. Cars on the road may be speeding or moving unpredictably. A driver may have only seconds to react to a situation. People on the sidewalk may only catch a fleeting glimpse of a collision out of the corner of their eye. Eyewitnesses are not machines but rather humans. People often have different memories of the same incident. Car crashes are terrifying and incredibly stressful. People involved and nearby the accident may be so preoccupied with their safety that they fail to observe the event. As a result, their observations might not be accurate and reliable.
First or third-party witnesses are lay witnesses and can only testify about what they observed or heard. They can not express an opinion about who is or is not to blame for the accident. On the contrary, expert witnesses are more technical and intricate than on-the-scene witness testimony. They undergo specialized training and qualify to discuss a particular aspect of a case. You can hire them to settle a dispute in your lawsuit. For example, if you are trying to prove to a jury that an accident caused a particular injury, you could seek the assistance of a medical expert. An independent practitioner will assess your damages and give reports or opinions as required. Likewise, there are many other types of expert witnesses, including:
Mental health experts
Professionals specializing in the mental health field also play a beneficial role. They can discuss whether (or how) an injury has affected your emotional well-being and quality of life.
Traffic/highway safety experts
An independent construction engineer or highway safety expert witness is also available. They can testify about the traffic or road conditions leading to your accident and accordingly give their opinions.
Accident reconstruction experts
These professionals can reconstruct a sequence of events that led to a road accident. They could establish a connection between your car accident and any injuries you sustained.
Seek an economist as an expert witness if you miss time from work or have financial difficulties after an injury. These experts can analyze the economic impact of your car accident-related losses and suggest compensation value.
Dos and Don’t for witness
If anyone witnesses an accident, safety is the priority. Passers-by should stay in pedestrian areas, whereas car drivers should park their vehicles on the roadside, ensuring rescue vehicles have space to navigate. Seek medical aid if injuries sustained are severe and report the incident to the police. An eyewitness is under no legal obligation to stay at the accident scene or give any statement. However, describing what you saw to the authorities or the other drivers involved in the collision may help resolve questions regarding liabilities and faults. Describe what you saw and share your contact information, if necessary. If you provide a statement about the incident, injury victims may be able to use the information to prove liability in a personal injury claim.
As previously stated, there is no legal requirement for witnesses to remain at the scene of an accident. However, most people believe it to be morally correct. If you are the first person to see the accident, you might be the only one who can help the victims. While assisting, be cautious of sharp metal and broken glass that could cause you harm. Carefully approach the scene if you decide to help the victims. Unless necessary, refrain from providing medical aid because if you move the victims in the wrong way, you might unintentionally make their situation worse. Eventually, it is best to wait for emergency personnel to arrive.
Many people who witness a car accident decide to stop and assist. These considerations can help ensure that you are doing everything you can for the victims and police while staying safe yourself. If you are unsure of who caused the accident, avoid assuming responsibility. Do not feel under any obligation to respond to every query. Do not speculate as to what occurred or who was at fault. Only state the factual points if you make a statement to someone at the accident scene. If anyone asks tricky questions, tell them you don’t know the answer. Respond to the queries as honestly as you can without feeling any burden.
What if no accident witnesses are available?
Sometimes there are no outside witnesses to an accident, so it’s just you and the other driver’s word against theirs. Or perhaps you are the only person who saw the accident, and your car got damaged because of the poor road conditions. If so, spare some time to write down every detail of the accident that comes to your mind. Take pictures of the accident site, including the surroundings, the road signs, the skid marks, the damaged vehicles, and any casualties. Additionally, search for any cameras that may have captured the accident. For instance, a camera in a nearby business, residential street, or traffic/red light may have recorded the scene partially or entirely. A good video shot at the right angle is much more beneficial than a witness.
How can attorneys assist you?
Car accidents are always stressful to experience or witness. Depending on the situation, they can sometimes also be traumatic. People most likely have many questions regarding their legal rights and obligations. If you are a witness, a lawyer can answer your questions even though you don’t have to hire them. It’s unsettling to have your credibility called into question. A lawyer can counsel you on whether you must give a statement and support you if you do.
Working with an experienced attorney is particularly significant if you have a direct role in a car accident. Whether making a claim or defending yourself against one, lawyers can help you get the best result possible. Even if no first-hand testimonies are available, they can find and work with expert witnesses to resolve your case.
Need a qualified, resourceful, and knowledgeable attorney? Your search is over at Phillips Law Offices. Our legal team helps victims recover and restart their lives following a horrifying auto accident. We can fight for your rights, file claims, and obtain fair compensation. So, contact us today at (312) 598-0917 and go for a free case evaluation.
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