How Important is Witness Testimony in a Car Accident Claim?

If you sustained injuries in an auto accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to financial compensation from the at-fault driver or their insurance carrier. However, to successfully prove that the other driver caused the crash, you need to provide strong, reliable evidence. One type of evidence that could lend a significant amount of credibility to your claim is witness testimony. Unfortunately, insurance companies often attempt to shift liability onto the victim in order to avoid a payout. In the absence of evidence such as police reports and eyewitness statements, your financial compensation settlement might rest on nothing more than “he said, she said”. When you work with a skilled Virginia Beach car accident lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, you are partnering with an experienced attorney who knows how to procure reliable documentation and eyewitness statements, as well as other evidence that reinforces your claim, making the insurance carrier less likely to fight it.

Who Can Act as a Witness?

Anyone who was present and observed what happened when the accident took place can be a witness. Witnesses are usually:  

  • Bystanders
  • People who live nearby 
  • Good Samaritans
  • The occupants of passing vehicles
  • People working at or patronizing a nearby business

Keep in mind that, although they are technically witnesses, the driver of the other vehicle, your passengers, and anyone else involved in the crash is unlikely to be considered impartial or reliable witnesses due to their involvement in the incident because they could have a vested interest in the claim’s outcome.

Getting Witness Details

Following an accident, your main priority should be to get yourself out of harm’s way and seek immediate medical attention. Collecting evidence and details about the accident, such as witness contact information, is your second priority. Ideally, these things will be collected immediately after the crash, but depending on the severity of the accident, this is not always possible. 

At the Scene

While you are still at the accident scene, talk to any bystanders who witnessed the moments leading up to the collision or the collision itself.  Ask politely for their names and contact details and if they would be willing to give a statement. It is best to interact with eyewitnesses as soon as possible. Most people will only be passing by and will be virtually untraceable if they leave without giving their information.  

Documenting eyewitness accounts directly after an accident is also more effective since people’s memories tend to fade over time, which can hurt their credibility if they give testimony in a deposition or at trial. 

After the Fact

In some cases, getting eyewitness details at the scene simply isn’t possible. It might be too dangerous to exit your vehicle and speak to people or your injuries might require immediate medical care. If this happens, your attorney can return to the scene at a later date and speak with nearby residents and business owners who may have witnessed the accident. For instance, a resident who was sitting on their front porch or a gas station attendant could both be reliable witnesses.  

Is Witness Testimony Used in Trials?

Although the majority of car accident claims are settled without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom, some do go to trial. This is usually due to challenges in determining liability. When this happens, it is necessary to have a compelling argument that can persuade the jury that your injuries were caused by another driver’s negligence. Reliable witness testimony is often essential evidence in proving their liability.

Can Witness Testimony Help Me Get a Settlement?

When the opposing parties are unable to agree on liability or reach a settlement, the case will most likely proceed to trial. Eyewitness statements are usually collected when the claims process begins before a lawsuit has been filed. During the discovery phase, your Virginia Beach car accident attorney may furnish a witness statement implicating the other driver. This could convince their insurance company to offer a fair settlement in order to avoid court. If the case goes to trial, a jury could potentially decide they need to pay a lot more. 

Practicing Injury Law Since 1985

At Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, our Virginia Beach car accident attorneys have over 70 years of combined experience helping injured victims collect evidence, such as eyewitness statements, and using them to build strong claims for compensation, such as the $1 million wrongful death settlement we won for the family of a bicyclist who was killed by a negligent driver. 

If someone else’s negligence was the cause of your injuries, you can discuss your claim with a member of our legal team and find out what options are available to you. To discuss your potential case with a member of our legal team, schedule your free consultation by calling (833) 997-1774 or filling out the contact form on our website. We have offices in Virginia Beach, Hampton, Norfolk, and Portsmouth.