17 Apr 2024

By Boris Tadchiev

In Car Accident

Many car accident claims are settled based on the strength of witness testimony. That’s why it’s crucial to identify witnesses after a collision, locate and contact them, obtain their statements, and assess their potential impact on the accident claim.

When The Tadchiev Law Firm, P.C. represents you in a New York City car accident claim, our lawyers will obtain witness testimony and determine how to use it to advance your claim or mitigate the impact of witness statements that may hurt your case.

If you sustained serious injuries in a Queens auto accident, our legal team will demand the maximum compensation you need for medical bills, lost income, and other losses you have suffered. Contact the Queens car accident attorneys at The Tadchiev Law Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation.

Types of Witnesses in a Car Accident

types of witnesses in car accidentsA witness is someone who saw or heard a car accident or may have important information about the crash, the people involved, and/or the vehicles or other factors relevant to what happened. Both sides in a case — the plaintiff (the injured party) and the defendant — have an interest in what witnesses know.

Lawyers from both sides will informally interview each witness and then take formal depositions from them. Depositions are sworn statements provided in response to questions posed to a witness. They are taken during the discovery phase of a lawsuit, in which the parties exchange evidence and information about the case. Many cases can be settled after each side examines witness testimony and other evidence exchanged in discovery and gains insight into the relative strengths of each other’s case.

There are three types of witnesses:

  • Lay witness – This is someone who saw certain events and can describe what they saw. In a car accident, this may be either driver, passengers, or bystanders (e.g., pedestrians, cyclists, etc.). Lay witnesses are sometimes called “eyewitnesses.”
  • Expert witness – This is a specialist who the court recognizes as educated in a particular area relevant to the case. They testify with respect to their area of expertise to clarify complex issues. In car accident cases, we may present medical providers, accident reconstruction experts, and financial consultants to testify as experts about our client’s injuries, how the accident occurred, and what long-term costs our injured client may expect.
  • Character witness – This is a person who knows the accident victim, the defendant, or other people involved in the case. Neighbors, friends, family, colleagues, and clergy are often used as character witnesses. When seeking compensation for a client’s pain and suffering, we might ask a character witness to describe our client’s lifestyle and level of activity before and after the accident to show how being injured has impacted them. Conversely, a character witness might be compelled to testify about their knowledge of the defendant’s drinking in a drunk driving case, heavy work schedule in a fatigued/drowsy driving case, or hot temper in an aggressive driving case.

First responders, like police and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), may be eyewitnesses to the aftermath of a car accident and are experts on traffic law and traumatic injury.

If a case goes to court, multiple witnesses may be called to testify or provide evidence relevant to the facts of the case. Lawyers from either side can call witnesses to testify and may have their own expert and character witnesses. Each side’s lawyers may also question, or cross-examine, witnesses the other side presents.

Admissibility and Requirements for Witnesses

A witness and their testimony can provide key information in a car accident case. A witness might:

  • Help establish the defendant’s fault
  • Describe injuries just after the crash
  • Describe the defendant driver’s demeanor just after the crash (e.g., incoherent, belligerent)
  • Recall self-incriminating statements the defendant made at the accident scene
  • Explain how inclement weather / overgrown landscaping / heavy traffic reduced visibility at the accident scene

When investigating a case, our experienced car accident attorneys would want to speak with any and all witnesses. There’s no telling what information a witness may provide and how it may help an accident claim. But for a car accident witness to be available to us at trial, the court must find their testimony admissible. This requires meeting specific standards, including:

  • CompetenceWitnesses must have the mental capacity to accurately recall the events they plan to testify about and understand their obligation to be truthful. Before testifying, witnesses must take an oath or affirm that they will tell the truth, and if they lie under oath, they may be criminally charged with perjury.
  • Personal knowledge Witnesses can only testify about what they personally saw, heard, or experienced. Under most circumstances, speculation or hearsay testimony will not be admissible.
  • Relevance – A witness’s testimony must provide pertinent information about the car accident, the driver(s) involved, or other circumstances or issues under question.

Preserving Witness Testimony at the Scene of a Car Accident

The moments after a collision are disorienting. However, witness testimony can be a valuable asset to your claim. If your injuries do not prevent you from doing so, get witnesses’ names and contact information while they are still at the accident scene. In addition to bystanders, this includes people in your car. Ask for statements while they are available instead of trying to find them or recall it later. Memories inevitably fade and change with time. Getting a witness statement at the crash site helps improve the credibility and accuracy of the information.

If possible, ask witnesses if you can video them giving you their names and contact information and saying what they saw happen. If you have passengers in your car, start with them so bystanders can see their example of cooperation. If anyone objects to the video, ask politely if they’ll write down contact information for you. Full names, addresses, and phone numbers are most important. We can use the information you provide to locate and speak to witnesses to your car accident.

Call Our Car Accident Lawyers in Queens

Witness testimony is only one part of a car accident case, but it may make a significant difference in the outcome of your claim. The Queens car accident attorneys at The Tadchiev Law Firm, P.C. regularly handle car accident claims and know how to help you obtain, assess, and present witness testimony to advance your claim. We are aggressive advocates for car accident victims and will help you pursue maximum compensation for your losses.

Ready to get started? Contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer.