Do Witnesses Make a Difference in Car Accident Cases?

Most car accident attorneys recommend speaking to witnesses at the scene of a crash. But does getting witness testimony make any real difference? After all, many witnesses are biased because they might have been riding in the car that hit you and are related to the driver.

Based on our experience, Ladah Law Firm recommends that you identify and get contact information for all witnesses.

Las Vegas Car Accident Every accident case is different, but witnesses are often key when it comes to determining fault for the wreck. And once a witness leaves the scene of an accident, you won’t be able to find him or her later. It is better to make contact with them at the scene of the crash.

Over the years, our lawyers have fielded many questions related to witnesses and car accidents, and we reproduce the most important ones below.

Can witnesses help establish fault for a crash?

Yes. In some car accidents, it is not always clear what happened. It might not even be clear who struck who first. We need to understand how an accident unfolded to assign fault for the crash. Witnesses are often a big help.

For example, a witness might tell us that the driver of the other car was on her cell phone in the seconds before the collision. This detail helps show the driver was not paying sufficient attention while driving, so they were negligent.

Why is establishing fault important?

Unless a driver was at fault for the collision, they aren’t legally obligated to pay compensation to any victims. Of course, fault can be shared. In Nevada, so long as you were not more than 50% at fault you can receive compensation. In other words, a motorist will owe compensation if they were “primarily” responsible for the wreck.

Am I a witness to my own accident?

Yes. You can always testify about what you remember. However, it is certainly helpful to have other people testify as to what happened because an insurance adjuster might think you are motivated by self-interest in what you say. After all, it is not unusual in a crash for the drivers to point the finger at each other. Witnesses are less biased.

At Ladah Law, we always talk to our clients about what they remember. But we also seek out the testimony of other witnesses to a crash.

Who makes a good witness?

Anyone with first-hand knowledge of the accident. This could be someone in either car that was involved in the crash or the occupant of a different vehicle on the road. A witness could also be someone standing on the sidewalk who saw a collision.

How do I identify witnesses?

At the scene of the accident, you can ask someone if they saw what happened. Of course, this presupposes you can move around after a wreck when, in reality, some people are in so much pain they can’t move.

What information should I get?

You can ask for a witness’ name and contact information, such as a phone or email address. Someone might give you their work contact information, which is okay. But people tend to move around from job to job all the time, and that contact information might soon be dated. Instead, try to get personal contact information, like a home or cell phone number.

Can I ask the witness what they saw?

You can. However, it’s important to avoid shaping what people remember. Saying something like, “And then you saw the driver of the red car hit me, right?” sounds like you are trying to implant memories and influence what they saw. Instead, ask open ended questions like “What did you see?” or “Did you see the crash?” and then go on from there.

What if a witness says they think I am to blame for the accident?

Still get their contact information. The other driver is probably going to use that person’s testimony to their benefit, and your legal team needs to know the witness is out there. Still share with your attorney the names and contact details for all witnesses, not just those who you think will back up your story.

What if I’m too hurt at the scene of the accident to move?

Ask someone who isn’t hurt to get witness information. Of course, the police should also come out to the scene of the wreck. And officers typically identify witnesses and put their names in the crash report.

What if a witness doesn’t want to stick around to talk to the police?

You can’t prevent a person from leaving. Encourage them to stay and get their contact information.

Some witnesses left before I could get their names—what do I do?

There isn’t a whole lot to do. Of course, we can use some evidence to try and identify the witnesses. For example, the crash might have been captured on a surveillance or dashcam video. This video might have also captured the license plate of a nearby vehicle which then fled the scene. We might track down witnesses this way.

A witness wants me to pay them for testimony; should I?

No. You should never pay witnesses. That would render their testimony practically worthless. One reason to hire an attorney is that they can communicate with witnesses to preserve the integrity of their testimony.

Will insurance adjusters reach out to my witnesses?

Understanding the process after a car accident is key to obtaining compensation. Most insurance adjusters will get a copy of the crash report and will see the witnesses listed. They probably will call some of them if it isn’t clear who is at fault for the wreck. As lawyers, we sometimes share with adjusters the identity of witnesses, especially if the police officer overlooked them.

Will witnesses make or break my case?

Not always. For example, the other driver might have admitted fault. Also, the way the two vehicles came together might strongly suggest one driver is at-fault for the crash. In these types of accidents, witnesses might not be important at all. However, where evidence is conflicting or unclear about fault, then eyewitnesses become critical.

Do I need witnesses if I got into an accident in someone’s driveway?

Yes. Driveway accidents are very similar to accidents in parking lots. However, there is a wrinkle. A defect in the driveway might have contributed to the crash, which means the homeowner could be at fault for the accident. Nevertheless, witnesses are important in premises liability accidents in Nevada.

What should I say if I am a witness?

If you saw an accident, you will probably speak to lawyers and insurance adjusters over the coming months. You should always tell them what you remember. Honesty is the best policy. Of course, over time, your memory might get cloudier. We recommend sitting down immediately after an accident and writing down what you remember while the memories are fresh. Date and sign whatever you jot down. You can then read these notes later to refresh your memory.

Will witnesses testify at trial?

They might. They might also have to give testimony under oath in a deposition in the build-up to a trial. The deposition serves many purposes. But principally it is a way to find out what a witness knows.

Contact Ladah Law Firm for a Free Consultation

We have decades of combined experience bringing accident claims for those injured in a car crash. Call us today at 702-252-0055 to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our legal team.