There is no question that witness statements are important to winning your case. They can all the difference between winning and losing. Even if the other driver admits that it was his fault, the witness statement can corroborate and “pin down” the fact that it was the other driver’s fault, so the other driver won’t be able to change his story later. And if the other driver lies and tries to blame you for the accident, the witness statements certainly will be necessary to refute the other driver and meet your legal burden of proof – called “the preponderance of the evidence” – that the accident occurred the way you say it occurred.
Witness statements should be taken right away, before the witness’ memory fades or the witness moves and can't be found.
Witnesses should state what they saw and what they heard the other driver say. They should also comment on any issue of particular importance to a case. This varies from case to case and requires the judgment of an experienced auto accident attorney to help you identify the most relevant issues for a successful case. For example, in a Maryland auto accident case, if the other driver says you were changing lanes when he pulled out into the road from a parking lot exit, the issue that you were changing lanes is not as legally significant as having the witness confirm that the other driver was entering the main road from the parking lot.
The witness will normally sign and date a written statement, which is handwritten or typed from what the witness says. It’s important that the statement be the witness’ own words. The witness should review the statement carefully and then affirm by way of his or her signature that its a true and correct version of what he or she saw.
It's okay for the witness to draw a diagram if that helps to explain how the accident happened.
If you talk to the witness after the accident, find out what he or she saw. But be careful not to coach the witness or suggest what happened. You don't want the witness to testify later that you told him what to say or pressured him to change his story. For this reason, we prefer to use a private investigator to contact the witnesses and take their statements. This puts distance between you and the witness, and it avoids a lot of potential problems. Additionally, our investigators know what information needs to be gathered so that we can build a strong case and win for you.
If you have questions about getting witness statements or your rights in an auto accident case, call us for a FREE consultation about your rights.