Adrenaline pumping, confusion, even anger – it can be hard to gather your thoughts immediately following the trauma of a car accident. Both drivers don’t want to believe they could be at fault, which is why car accident cases often rely on third-party testimony.
While in a state of shock, most people are able to remember the basics, such as exchanging information and taking pictures. But unfortunately for many, gathering witness statements often comes as an afterthought. Since most bystanders just stop to make sure no one is injured, they assume they are no longer needed once first responders arrive – taking valuable information with them!
That’s why it’s often up to the drivers to gather and secure witnesses to provide statements to the authorities. To help readers prevent an all-too-common insurance battle of one person’s word vs the other’s, we put together this guide along with this printable PDF of car accident witness questions. Keep it in your glove compartment along with your proof of insurance and registration! It could drastically change the result of your case if you’re in one of the 6 million car accidents every year.
Here are the most important questions to ask a car accident witness:
1. When did you notice the accident?
Some car accident witnesses are present during the wreck. However, some are only on the scene in the immediate aftermath. A witness can still help your case even if they did not see the collision itself. Perhaps they heard the other driver say something or admit fault (more on that later). Either way, it’s important to know exactly what they saw. If they were too removed from the accident, they may not be able to help your case. It’s also important to make sure they are sure of what they witnessed since contradicting stories to police or insurance companies can cause doubt.
2. Where were you located in relation to the accident?
Were they right next to your collision? Did they hear it from inside a building? Your witness may have even been in the car with you. The other side’s lawyer may try and argue your witness was too far away to make a valid statement on your accident. That’s why it’s important to know exactly where they were. The closer they were to the accident, the more impactful their testimony could be. Rather than asking each witness all these questions one at a time, you can prioritize witnesses before they leave the scene by trying to find which witnesses were closest to the accident and had the best view.
For example, drivers in the lane next to the accident may have only turned to look right after the moment of impact. On the other hand, drivers behind the accident may have had a perfect view of the accident and saw everything that happened before the moment of impact.
3. Was anyone with you at the time of the accident? Who?
The attorney for the other party may argue that your witness was distracted. This can happen if they were in the company of others. On the other hand, other people may help your case because it’s possible that they too are witnesses to your accident. If a witness was accompanying someone, be sure to ask them to give a statement as well.
4. What did you see/hear?
It’s important to get as many details as possible from your witness. The more details they can provide, the more credible their testimony will be perceived. Important details include:
- Who was in what lane? What was the general position of the vehicles?
- Did you hear sudden brakes or screeching?
- Was one driver speeding?
- Did you notice any traffic infractions? (stop signs, yield signs, red lights, U turns)
- Were any vehicles moving erratically?
5. What was the approximate distance between the vehicles when you noticed them?
It’s not necessary that the witness knows the exact measurement. Instead, it’s important that the witness can relate the general details of what they saw. This will help build a clear picture of the scene of your accident.
6. Did the weather contribute to the accident?
It’s possible that the negligent party was traveling at an unsafe speed given the weather. A witness statement can help illustrate this. Furthermore, witness statements about weather can give the court a full understanding of the accident site.
7. Did you hear the other driver say anything after the accident?
Sometimes drivers will share valuable information in the minutes after a wreck. For example, they may apologize for their careless driving. In other circumstances, they may notice that you were injured. A witness can confirm what was said in the moments after an accident, and can also testify if the other driver was enraged or threatening anyone at the scene after the accident.
8. Did you have a clear view of the accident?
The other side may argue that your witness could not see the details of the accident. This may or may not harm your case. Perhaps the witness saw or heard valuable details right after your collision. Even if their view was slightly obstructed, they may still have seen things that you could not notice.
9. Did you notice if the other driver was speeding, texting or serving?
Many accidents happen because of distracted drivers. In fact, about 1 in 4 accidents is caused by distracted driving. That said, it can be hard to prove that someone was not paying attention before an accident. Nevertheless, your witness may have seen the other driver being preoccupied. A statement in that regard, such as the other driver was swerving, can serve as evidence that they were distracted.
10. Could you make a statement to the police?
Having a witness statement on record with police can be very valuable. Your lawyer can use it at a later date during negotiations or trial. Your witness may be unavailable at a future date. Therefore, it’s very important to get their statement as soon as possible. Ask the witness to stick around. If they are in a hurry, ask for their contact information.
11. Could you draw a diagram of the scene? Or write your observations down and sign them for me?
It’s important to have a witness who can help recreate your accident scene. They don’t have to do a perfect job of writing or sketching everything down. Instead, it’s simply important to show that they understand the nature around your wreck and are confident in what they saw.
12. Where were you headed or coming from? What were you doing at the time of the accident?
This question helps identify the witnesses state of mind when the accident occurred. The other party may try and argue that the witness was distracted or not in a clear state of mind. Knowing as much as possible will help establish whether their statement is strong or not.
13. What did you do after the crash?
Your witness may have reacted a certain way due to the accident. This is not generally a problem for your case. However, this question can show that the witness remembers many details about the scene of your wreck. A court can really get a feel of the witnesses’ presence after the witness explains many details after the accident. This helps illustrate their reaction to the event.
14. What did people do right after the accident?
It’s important to understand as much as possible about the scene of your injury. This question will help illustrate that. Furthermore, it will test how well your witness recalls all the details. There are countless specifics a witness can bring to light, including:
- If someone fled the scene
- If someone took blame for the accident, or accused another party
- If one of the drivers was handling a phone or beverage or anything else that could distract them
15. Who got out of their vehicle first?
Maybe someone got out first to seek immediate aid. Or it’s possible they were able to exit their vehicle since they were not hurt. This question will test your witness’ memory of how the accident affected those involved.
16. Do you know anyone involved in the accident?
The parties involved will want to know if your witness has a conflict of interest. It’s possible they may seek to help their friends or relatives who were in the wreck. However, knowing someone in the accident doesn’t mean that their statement is completely worthless. The court and parties involved will have to assess their role in the bigger picture. Yes, your friend may have witnessed your accident. However, their statement may make sense, and still be valuable to the court and your case.
17. Did you see any other witnesses who may have more insight on what happened?
Finding other witnesses may help your case. For instance, perhaps someone else had a better view of your accident. You may have only noticed one or two witnesses, and this is common given the confusion of a wreck. However, witnesses frequently identify other witnesses. The statements of all witnesses involved really can help show exactly what happened and build a strong case.
18. Do you have any accident-related expertise?
A knowledgeable and experienced witness may be very valuable, so identifying them is important. They may be able to shed more light on your case, especially if they have a good understanding of medical, mechanical, or legal issues – potentially making them a more credible witness. Witnesses with certain expertise may include:
- Law enforcement officers or administrators
- Those who work in health care
- Mechanics or those with other technical training
19. Is there anything else I should know about the accident?
You and your lawyer can ask many questions of a witness, but there still might be some insight that you never thought to ask about. Let them share as much as possible with you. Witnesses often remember things that victims completely forget. They also have their own point of view that may give them details unknown to everyone else at the scene.
20.Can I have your contact information; in case I need to get in touch with you about the accident later?
Write all their information down. Then be sure to give the name and contact info of any witnesses to your lawyer. Witnesses may know something that they don’t think is important at first. Maybe your lawyer will touch base with them again and gain valuable insight. Basically, the more information you have about your witnesses, the better.
In Nevada? Oronoz & Ericsson Injury Lawyers Can Help You
You don’t need to investigate the entire accident yourself. If you’ve been injured, the stakes are automatically higher. The other driver’s insurance company will have a team of lawyers building a defense for their client or trying to prove you were at fault. An experienced injury attorney can investigate all facets of a case with expert witnesses to testify on your behalf. If you were injured in an accident in Nevada, the team of experienced trial attorneys at Oronoz & Ericsson Injury Lawyers can help. We offer free consultations and aren’t compensated unless we win your case.