When it comes to proving liability in a car accident case, witnesses to the accident are a powerful tool. If there were witnesses to your accident, you will hopefully have the opportunity to obtain their contact information from either the scene or from the accident report. Your attorney will ask the witness a number of questions to help the insurance adjuster or the court to understand exactly how the accident occurred.
The attorney will often remind the witness in the phrasing of the questions to use their own words when answering to avoid the witness simply parroting the details that were included in the police report. Here is a list of seven questions that will be asked of your witnesses and the reason why those questions are important.
1. How did the Accident Occur?
This question will often be phrased in an open-ended manner to allow the witness the greatest opportunity to provide their own observations of the accident and the details that are most clear in their mind. Often, the response to this initial question will provide a map of follow-up questions that are necessary in order to fill in gaps in the story.
2. What Was Your First Indication that an Accident Was About to Occur?
This question is important because it shows where the witness began paying attention to the details of the accident. If the witness’ first inclination that an accident had occurred was the sound of the impact, then they likely won’t be able to provide an accurate accounting of the actions of either party that led to the accident.
3. Where Were You in Relation to the Accident?
Witnesses will be able to provide different details as to how the accident occurred from different vantage points. Your attorney will want to establish how close the witness was when the accident occurred, as this will inform the type of details they can provide. A witness who observed the accident that occurred just feet from where they were standing or sitting in their car will understandably have more detailed observations than someone who was a quarter-mile away when the accident occurred.
4. Can You Provide More Details About How the Accident Occurred?
Your attorney will press witnesses for more details as showing the actions that the at-fault party took is at the crux of proving your claim. Some common follow-up questions that will be used to solicit more details include:
- What were you doing before the accident? This can reveal whether the witness had his or her attention trained on the situation as it unfolded on the roadway or was distracted by something else.
- Which lane position was each vehicle in? These details can help reconstruct the accident in order to understand how it occurred.
- How fast were the vehicles traveling? While no one is expecting the witness to have an exact accounting of everyone’s speed, having an indication as to whether the vehicles were going with the flow of traffic or if someone was weaving in and out or driving erratically can provide a lot of the background for showing liability.
- Did you notice the traffic signals just before the accident? Your attorney will want to know this as it could indicate that one of the drivers ran a red light. Other questions will likely be asked to indicate a traffic infraction on the part of either driver, such as whether either driver attempted an illegal u-turn just before the accident.
5. What did You Do After the Accident?
The credibility of a witness often comes down to how they responded to the situation that they just saw. If the witness merely went on about his or her business as if the accident never happened, they are often less able to offer concise details as someone who was personally invested in the situation and responded by calling 911 or attempting to render aid to the victims.
6. What Were the Conditions on the Scene of the Crash?
Your attorney will want to know what the traffic and weather conditions were like at the time of the accident. Weather can create conditions such as slippery roads and sun glare that can contribute to the crash. Weather can also produce poor visibility that could not only factor into the cause of the crash but impact how much the witness was able to see.
Your attorney will also likely ask the witness if they have any particular expertise in weather, road conditions, accident reconstruction, or vehicles, as particular expertise in the factors involved in the accident can result in more detailed observations.
7. Who Was You with When You Witnessed the Accident?
Having a witness who can corroborate your story about how your accident occurred is a valuable tool when it comes time to prove your claim. What is even better than one witness though is multiple witnesses. If you were with someone when the accident occurred, your attorney will likely want the contact information for that individual to learn about their observations.
Trust Pacific West Injury Law to Ask the Right Questions on Your Behalf
An experienced car accident attorney from Pacific West Injury Law knows what an opportunity it is to have a witness able to give an accounting as to what happened and how to use that information to prove your claim. For a free case evaluation, contact us online.