If you’re ever in a crash, talking to witnesses can make a difference in your car insurance claim and help you hold the at-fault party accountable. If you feel unsure and uncomfortable approaching a stranger for information, below are questions you should ask witnesses at the scene of an accident.
What Did You See Happen?
Find out what the witnesses saw. It’s important to ensure you emphasize the “saw” part. Their account must be based on what they actually witnessed and not speculation. People often connect the dots to tell a story when they did not physically witness certain events. It’s natural for people to fill in the gaps with what they believe occurred. But you want facts, not speculation.
If the insurance company denies your claim, they may try to discredit witnesses or poke holes in their story. It’s much harder to find the weaknesses in a witness statement when the statement sticks to the facts. As the witness provides the statement, remember to ask them, “Did you see that happen?” This will guide them to consider their account carefully.
How Do You Think the Accident Occurred?
Just because you’re asking a witness to consider what they saw doesn’t mean they shouldn’t tell you what they think caused the crash. Essentially, this is where you ask them to make sense of what they witnessed. The witness may have insight into what led to the collision from an outside perspective. Just make sure you distinguish what they saw from what they believe happened.
What Did You Hear Before, During, or After the Car Accident?
What the witnesses heard can be just as powerful as what they saw. They may have heard the other driver arguing when the collision happened or acknowledging a mistake they made. It’s also possible that the witness heard someone else, like a passenger or another witness, say something that could provide insight into the crash. You should also ask about any sounds they heard, such as screeching tires.
Where Were You When You Saw the Accident?
Here, you’re looking for the witness’s location relative to the crash. Were they right behind you? Were they on the sidewalk next to the crash site? Were they in a building across the street, peering through a window? Their location affects their view of the collision and their ability to hear what was said at the time.
The closer they are, the more detail they can provide. You may want to prioritize witnesses who were near the accident. The opposing party’s attorney may claim that a witness was too far away for their statement to be viable, so it’s a good idea to understand the witness’s vantage point.
Where Were You Coming From and Where Were You Headed When You Witnessed the Crash?
You want to understand the witness’s frame of mind as they saw the accident. If they were distracted by where they were going next, their statement may not be as reliable. Further, if they were coming from somewhere that could have influenced their state of mind, such as a bar or a party, the other driver and his attorney may use this info to discredit their statement.
Do You Know Anyone in the Collision?
If the witness is familiar with the other party in the accident, they may be less willing to provide a statement, or they may provide a biased statement. Someone who knows the other driver is probably not a favorable witness for your car accident claim.
Were You With Someone Else When You Witnessed the Accident?
Finding out whether the witness was with someone at the time of the accident can provide additional witnesses for you to speak with. You can then compare statements. If multiple witnesses saw the same thing or came to the same conclusions about how the crash occurred, it could provide stronger evidence to support your claim.
Can You Provide Your Contact Information?
If you must speak to the witness again in the future, you should ask for their contact information, such as their name and phone number.
Can You Give a Statement to the Police?
Be sure to ask the witness if they can also give a statement to the police so that it will be on record as a part of the police report. Many witnesses may try to leave the scene after the police arrive unless you specifically request them to speak with the police about what they saw.
Shulman & Hill Can Handle Your Car Accident Case for You
Speaking to witnesses after a car accident may not be your first thought, but you should not overlook it. If you can, consider asking witnesses these questions after your car crash. The information you gain can prove your side of the story and help you recover compensation.