How To Obtain Witness Statements After a Car Accident

how to obtain witness statements after a car accident

If you don’t know how to obtain witness statements after a car accident, that’s okay.

It’s sometimes helpful to have a police officer at the scene to help you with identifying witnesses. If no officer is called to the scene—and your condition allows—you can approach bystanders at the crash site to ask if they would be willing to give their testimony. Then, your car accident attorney can help you take down an official statement after the crash.

Below, we offer tips for:

  • Finding eyewitnesses at a crash scene
  • How to identify a helpful witness
  • What to ask an eyewitness
  • Finding a lawyer to help you after a car accident

Witness statements are an important part of a car accident case. Here are a few steps you can take to help secure accurate, helpful eyewitness accounts of your car crash. If you have any questions about what to do after your collision and how to recover compensation for your injuries and debts, contact Barrera Law Group LLC for a free consultation.

Where Can I Find Witnesses of My Car Accident?

The best time to get witness information is in the immediate aftermath of the crash. In the moments after your collision, people are available. The memory is clear in their minds. And you may never be able to contact them again if you don’t get their contact information right away.

We advise everyone involved in a car accident to take down information for as many people as they can while still at the site of the crash. Please only do this if you are not seriously injured. In the event that you need to go to the hospital, ask a passenger, family member, or police officer to obtain witness information for you.

Witnesses of a car accident can include a wide range of people. It may be people who were somehow involved in the accident, such as:

  • Vehicle drivers
  • Passengers
  • First responders

Except in the case of emergency responders, involved parties are usually seen to have some kind of bias, which makes them less credible witnesses than uninvolved parties.

Therefore, it’s best to try to get information from bystanders and others who have no personal involvement in the accident, such as:

  • Pedestrians or bicyclists on the sidewalk or street
  • Occupants of other vehicles that stopped to help
  • People in parked vehicles (if the crash occurred along a city street or in a parking area)
  • People working in surrounding businesses
  • Workers at a nearby construction zone
  • People inside adjacent homes or other buildings

Does a Witness Need To Have Seen the Actual Crash Happen?

Eyewitnesses of the exact moment of the crash can typically provide the most valuable information. The best witness is someone who clearly observed the moments leading up to the crash and the crash itself. This kind of witness doesn’t always exist, however.

But even someone who missed the actual collision may be able to provide some helpful details about surrounding events.

A witness can still be a key part of building your case if they observed the other driver:

  • Speeding prior to the crash
  • Using a cell phone behind the wheel
  • Failing to use a turn signal
  • Making an illegal turn
  • Breaking a traffic law
  • Arguing with other people in the vehicle
  • Displaying signs of road rage
  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Swerving or giving other indications of intoxicated driving
  • Doing anything else before the crash that shows them to be negligent and at fault for what happened

Not all witnesses are good witnesses, though. Someone who simply heard the crash happen—and then turned to see the aftermath—may not be able to contribute anything to support your case. These witnesses may only be able to offer speculation and guesses about what might have happened, which may be damaging to your claim. Unless a witness of the aftermath is able to give an important detail others couldn’t (such as the erratic post-crash actions of the other driver who was suspected of drunk driving), it may be best to avoid this category of witnesses altogether.

Additionally, any witness who appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, experiences a vision or hearing impairment, or has any other characteristics that may call their credibility into question usually isn’t a good witness.

What Information Should I Get From a Witness?

When it comes to taking down witness information, it’s always better to get too much than too little.

After the accident scene is cleaned up and people disperse and go about their lives, it can be difficult to track down a person who saw what happened. The more information you have from them at the start, the easier it will be to contact them when it comes time to obtain a witness statement after a car accident.

When talking to a witness who has agreed to give a statement, ask for their:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Employer
  • Address and phone number of place of employment
  • Phone number for a spouse or other close relationship
  • When it’s best to reach them

If you have time, you can also take down a little information about what the witness saw. You can either write down notes, ask the witness to write a brief statement, or take an audio or video recording with your cell phone. Ask them about:

  • What they saw and heard
  • Any details about the incident they personally noticed
  • Any information they have about events leading up to the crash
  • What happened to all involved vehicles
  • Property damage and bodily injuries they saw
  • Weather, lighting, visibility, road conditions, and traffic
  • If they saw anyone leave the scene
  • Where they were standing/sitting when the crash happened
  • What they were doing at that time
  • If they saw any other people in the area who also observed what happened

Your brief interview with the eyewitness at the scene does not need to be comprehensive. Your car accident attorney can contact these witnesses at a later date if needed.

Only get these details from people who have said they are willing to give a statement. Never try to pressure someone into giving a witness statement. If someone seems unwilling or uncooperative, move on. At this point, they are not legally required to talk to you if they’re not comfortable doing so on their own accord.

Why Are Witness Statements Important in Car Accident Cases?

After any kind of motor vehicle accident, determining liability (proving who is at fault) is critical to your ability to recover compensation for your losses—like vehicle repair costs, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

Proving liability means demonstrating that the other party is at fault and, therefore, financially responsible for the damages they caused. It is usually the at-fault party’s insurance company that you need to convince, as most claims are paid through the insurer and not out of pocket.

An insurer won’t take your words seriously unless you have concrete proof to back up your claim. If an insurance carrier is going to pay out for a policyholder’s negligence, they need plenty of proof of liability.

The words of an eyewitness to the collision can be strong evidence in a car accident claim. Insurance companies tend to weigh the words of an unbiased third party more heavily than those of an involved party, like a passenger in the struck vehicle. Because they saw firsthand what occurred, a witness can often provide details that others can’t. If they were able to see with their own eyes the negligent actions of the at-fault driver, they can validate your version of events.

What Kind of Lawyer Can Help Me File a Car Accident Claim in New Mexico?

A car accident attorney here at the Albuquerque office of Barrera Law Group LLC is fully equipped to handle your Bernalillo County auto crash.

If you took down witness contact information at the scene, we can help facilitate interviews and obtain witness statements after your car accident.

If you weren’t able to get the names of any witnesses at the time, don’t worry. Our skilled attorneys can look for witnesses mentioned in the police report, find nearby shop owners, commuters, or residents who may have been in the area at the time of your crash, and uncover other sources of valuable evidence that can build you the strongest claim possible.

Let us work on your case while you focus on healing. Contact us now to set up your free consultation.