Being in a car accident that someone else caused can be disorienting. You may need a moment to figure out for yourself what happened, and even then, it can be confusing.
That's what witnesses are for. They can help you piece together the situation and provide valuable information to help your claim. As soon as you know that no one needs emergency medical care, start getting statements from anyone who saw what happened. Don't wait for the police or anyone else to do it for you.
Of course, safety is the number one priority. So, be sure to get medical help even if you feel okay. Some injuries may not appear right away, so your doctor should check you to make sure everything looks fine. At the scene of the car accident though, one of the best ways to help yourself is to gather evidence from witnesses. An attorney from Accident.com can then help you pursue your claim more easily and get you on the path to proper compensation.
Look Around for Witnesses
If you're lucky, some bystanders may stop and ask if they can help. Sometimes, however, people might not want to insert themselves into a situation. Other than people in your vehicle, look around to see who may have heard or seen anything.
Are there stopped cars in accident traffic? Could you ask one of the drivers for a statement? Were there any pedestrians nearby? Is there a close parking lot where someone is watching what's going on?
Remember, when searching for witnesses, your safety is most important! Watch out for traffic. You don't want to get in another car accident while trying to handle the first one.
Do It Yourself
Don't rely on police officers and police reports to gather the information for you. While reports are important for your case, witnesses often leave before police arrive. Plus, officers are often focused on interviewing the people involved in the crash first. They may only have time to get the name of one witness, without any specific statement.
Talk to the witnesses yourself while you're waiting for the police to respond.
Gather Information, Don’t Guide It
Ask witnesses what they saw, but don't try to coach them or guide their answers. Guiding people to certain responses is considered manipulating evidence and can hurt your court case. Emphasize honesty and clarify that you’re asking questions to get an accurate understanding of what they know.
Be sure to gather each witness's contact information too. Your attorney may need to speak with them for clarification at some point. Your auto insurance is also likely to ask you for information from witnesses. If your case goes to court, you'll need to have witnesses' names and contact information so the other driver’s attorney can question them too.
Get the Facts
To get the most important information, be sure to ask each witness about:
- Their name and how to spell it.
- Contact information and preferred method of being contacted. These details should include home and work phone numbers, email address, and mailing address, if possible.
- Their driver’s license information and license plate number. Take photos of these details!
- Their account of what happened.
- Whether they saw the crash. If not, take note of what they saw before or after the car accident. For example, maybe they noticed that the light turned red five seconds before hearing the crash.
You can also ask follow-up questions to help them explain what they saw. However, be sure to remind them that they should be honest. Your questions are only to help them remember different parts of what they observed. Some examples include:
- What they saw or heard between your car and any other cars.
- Whether they noticed any other witnesses.
- Whether they took any pictures.
- What they were doing when the crash happened.
Record what witnesses say either with detailed notes or with a device. If you have a smartphone, take a video of each witness. You can also use a voice recording app to get a brief audio statement. Apple iPhones come with a “Voice Memos” feature. Some Android devices also have a pre-installed app.
If you don't have the resources for a recording, take detailed notes on paper, or you can type on your notepad app. Focus on getting accurate contact information from them. If you can, take a photo of their driver’s license or state-issued ID.
Contact an Attorney
The information you gather at the scene of the car accident is an important first step to building your case, and a personal injury attorney can help you move forward with your claim. An attorney may be able to get a more detailed statement from a witness or even find a witness if you contact the attorney soon enough. Accident.com can connect you with a lawyer who'll start with the information you have, gather more details and pursue the compensation that you deserve. Reach out today before time runs out!