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How Critical Are Car Accident Witnesses?

By Karnas Law Firm |

At Karnas Law Firm, PLLC, we have helped thousands of car accident victims seek compensation for their injuries. In Arizona, car accident liability is determined by fault, which is another way of saying “responsibility.” Put simply, the person responsible for the accident is legally liable to pay compensation to injured victims.

In our experience, witnesses are often critical to the task of establishing fault. For this reason, we highly recommend contacting our firm immediately after a crash. Our car accident lawyer can review the facts of your case and help you determine the next step to take legally.

Ways to Prove Fault

Fault is very important in any car accident case, and there are certain ways to prove it:

  1. Driver admission. Maybe the other driver admits to hitting you or to drinking and driving. That makes things easy—but it’s also rare. Many drivers instead will blame you for the crash.
  2. Dashcam or other video footage. Your collision might have been captured on video. For example, a nearby vehicle could have had a dashcam which recorded a motorist running a red light and hitting you. Or a business’ security camera captures the crash.
  3. Physical evidence. Sometimes physical evidence helps establish fault. For example, based on the size of the dent, we can estimate the speed of the car that hit you. This evidence could show the driver was going over the speed limit.
  4. Witness testimony. With no video, we tend to rely on witness statements. You are a witness, of course, as is the other driver. But your self-interest might motivate you to present a slanted version of events. That’s why third-party witnesses are so important.

Who Are Third-Party Witnesses?

A third-party witness is essentially anyone other than the drivers involved in the crash. They include people riding in your vehicle, other motorists who saw the crash, or anyone standing on the sidewalk who observed what happened.

Some third-party witnesses are more credible than others:

  • A witness is most credible when they are not related to either driver involved in the collision. They don’t have an incentive to bend the truth to benefit either side, so many people will consider them objective.
  • A witness is credible when they have an unobstructed view of the accident. Someone a half mile away probably saw less. Likewise, a person on the sidewalk looking at their phone is less credible.
  • A witness who tells a consistent story is more credible than someone who switches their story around. Stories which change make a witness appear unsure of what they remember.

A solid witness can make the difference in establishing fault. They can speak authoritatively about how the accident unfolded and make the accident come alive for those of us who were not there. A credible third-party witness can also back up your own version of events, so they can enhance your own credibility.

How to Find Witnesses after a Crash

Probably the best thing to do is to talk to people near the accident scene. Hopefully, other motorists who observed the wreck will stop so you can speak to them. Your odds of finding a fleeing witness are very low, but many people will stop, simply out of a desire to help the injured.

Speak to witnesses unless you are in too much pain. Ask them if they saw the crash and ask for a way to contact them. You can share this information with your car accident lawyer. A witness might mistakenly believe you caused the accident. That happens, and there’s no reason to argue with them on the spot. You should also share their name with your lawyer. We can often figure out why they didn’t see the accident clearly. For example, this witness might really have been distracted and not seen a car cut you off.

At Karnas Law Firm, we appreciate the importance of witnesses. We reach out quickly to speak with them and get their story on paper. We can then use this witness testimony as part of our settlement negotiations or, where settlement is not possible, in a personal injury trial.

What if There Are No Witnesses?

This sometimes happens. You might have been involved in a crash on a desolate stretch of highway or late at night. Can you still bring a claim for compensation?

Yes. There is other evidence we can use. Also, you are also a witness, as mentioned above. Although it’s helpful to have third-party witnesses, they are not required.

Call Our Car Accident Lawyer

Karnas Law Firm provides free consultations to members of the public injured in car accidents. Contact us today.