Being involved in an automobile accident is clearly a frightening experience. It goes without saying that calling emergency first aid, if needed, and reporting the accident to the police are essential steps, but identifying witnesses are equally as important. Getting their statements about what they saw can be crucial to successfully securing compensation if you’ve suffered an injury. They can also help shine your case in the strongest light if the evidence is used in court. Here’s how to write a witness statement in eight easy steps.
After the emergency services have been called and you’ve exchanged details with the other party involved in your accident, follow these steps when writing down a witness statement or if you're asking somebody to do it on your behalf, here's some advice to give them.
Step #1: Include Witness Details
There's a reason that getting witnesses' details at the accident is so important and everything will run smoother if you include them in your statement. You’ll need their name and address in the case of any future correspondence, such as needing to attend a case, anyway, so you should include them with your statement to help keep things slick.
Step #2: Give Some Context
The next step is to put the statement in context. Once the witness has said who they are, they need to provide you with the date of the accident you were involved in and the time of the incident.
Step #3: Where the Witness Was
It’s also important to ask the witness to tell you exactly where they were at the time of the accident. For example, they might have been walking past when it happened, they could’ve been driving in front of or behind the actual incident. Or even something as simple as walking out of the store when the accident took place.
All of these minor details provide a much more thorough picture to help make the case stronger.
Step #4: Record the Witness’ Words
This is perhaps the most important part of the witness statement you’re writing. First off, write the statement word-for-word in first person, meaning you'll write it from the perspective of the witness.
It’s important to be as detailed as possible but without pushing the witness too far. To strengthen the case and the witness statement even further, get plenty of details such as the colors of the vehicles involved in the incident and where each vehicle was at the time of the accident. Also include how the incident actually happened, who collided with who, where the witness was when the collision occurred and what happened when the drivers got out of their vehicles.
The statement should also include what the witness saw in regards to whether the drivers looked injured or hurt when they left the vehicles, if they exchanged contact details, if the emergency services were called.
Finally, this step should also include the part where you approached the witness, asking if they saw the accident and how the witness responded when asked about providing a statement.
Step #5: Ask for Estimates
To make the witness statement even more accurate, make sure you ask all witnesses for any estimates. This includes the speeds they believe both vehicles involved in the collision were traveling at, the witness’ approximate distance from the events described, how clearly the witness could see or hear the events and also find out about lighting and weather conditions from the witness’ perspective.
While it might seem like too much detail, it can be the all-important difference when it comes to deciding who is at fault for the collision and whether or not you’re entitled to compensation.
Step #6: Diagram - If Necessary
Depending on the nature of the collision, consider asking the witness to provide a rough diagram of the events they saw. While a simple rear-end incident might not require a diagram, it can help your case if the witness provides more details which they might not have remembered earlier. Regardless of whether it’s a vehicle collision or an incident at the workplace.
Step #7: Read the Statement Back
While this doesn’t go into the witness statement itself, it’s vital that you read the statement back to the visitor. This is because it offers witnesses the change to amend in the chance something was written down incorrectly, or you missed a vital piece of information that can help your case.
Step #8: Date and Sign
The final point to include in the witness statement is to have the person in question date and sign the statement. This is so that you have proof that the statement was taken on the date of the collision. Their signature also proves that they witnessed the incident and that the contents of the statement are true and correct, removing any chance of the witness going back on their version of events.
When to Write a Witness Statement
As soon as possible. Psychological research has shown that human memory can be very flawed. Over time, bias can creep into stories that people tell and witnesses often take in added information to incorporate it into their own story. Other times, people simply forget what had happened.
So, take witness statements right away as they’re more likely to be accurate compared to later statements.
Why They’re Important
Witness statements eliminate all doubt and prove what happened during the accident, highlighting who is at fault. They can also help to promote settlement as discovery can bring the other side into the realization that they were in the wrong.
For example, the statement might reveal that the driver at fault was playing with the radio at the time, meaning the driver’s insurance company should settle if it’s an automobile accident. The witness statements can also hold enormous value in court which can sway the case in your favor.
What to do With it
You should either hand the witness statement to the law enforcement for them to proceed with the case or leave the potentially troublesome task to an experienced attorney to handle everything on your behalf. Personal injury victims who have an attorney by their side typically receive a considerably larger settlement, even factoring in the attorney’s fees.
At Coxwell & Associates, we can provide you with a highly experienced personal injury attorney who will ensure your rights are protected, will work hard to obtain the compensation you are entitled to and who has compassion for your current situation. By retaining a skilled advocate from Coxwell & Associates, the insurance companies involved in your case will be aware that you have a highly experienced personal injury attorney.
If you believe you’ll benefit from speaking to a knowledgeable and experienced Mississippi personal injury attorney, contact us today for a complimentary consultation.
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Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.