After being involved in a car crash, your safety and that of the other people involved in the crash is most important. Once it is clear that no one is in immediate danger, the next thing on your mind should be to gather information that will help establish what really happened. Although this may sound simple, it often is much more complicated than it seems as people’s memories fade, those at fault change their stories, and insurance companies blur the facts. Our attorneys at Ray Padilla Law, APC explain the importance of witnesses and their statements for car crash claims.
Why are Witnesses Important?
Witness statements are always beneficial if the witness saw first-hand how the crash occurred or heard statements from the person who caused the crash. Witnesses who saw your car crash can provide valuable insight into what happened. Statements from witnesses could align with the victim’s recall of the incident and help prove that the other driver was at fault for the crash, helping support a claim for compensation. Whether it is in the initial stage of investigating liability at the start of a claim, to being deposed in litigation, or even being called as an eyewitness in trial; a witness may be a huge asset to a victim of a car crash case.
That being said, witness statements are even more valuable in crashes where no police arrive on the scene to make a crash report. Typically, after car accidents that result in injuries, a police officer will come to the scene and take statements from all parties and any witnesses to make a traffic collision report. In the traffic collision report, the responding police department will determine the cause of the crash/liability and while these reports are not definitive as to fault, they do carry some weight.
In cases where no police report is made, the insurance companies will immediately ask for any witnesses to the crash to verify the story as to how the incident happened to help them determine liability. In crashes where there is both no police report or witness to distinguish who was at fault, the insurance companies default to taking each party’s statement and deciding solely from one word against another. Spoiler alert, they will usually take the side of their insured who may or may not change their story from what actually happened or what they admitted at the scene of the crash. It is important to note that even in cases where the other driver admits fault at the scene, this does not mean that their insurance company will just roll over and accept fault. All too often we see at-fault parties say one thing to the victims they crash into, then turn around and give an entirely different story to their insurance company.
This leads to an unfortunate case because Auto insurance companies have a duty to defend the people that they insure against accusations of blame for car accidents. While this is understandable, and your own auto insurance would do the same for you, at the end of the day, these insurance companies do not make a profit by paying settlements to injured victims and will avoid it at all costs. Unless there is an outside witness to back up the true side of the story, many insurance companies will not admit that their insured is liable, halting the progression of a car crash claim, or denying it all together. It is important to note that generally, people are honest and want to take responsibility for the harm they caused and are honest with their own insurance company. Their insurance company however, will then still try and find a way out of being held responsible. Most often it is not the at-fault driver who blurs the facts or changes their story, it is their insurance company.
What About a Rear End Crash?
Surprisingly, liability disputes happen a lot in rear-end cases, a crash in which liability is seemingly crystal clear. To avoid liability, at-fault drivers use the tactic of fabricating a claim that the victims that they crash into dangerously cut them off.
Situations like these are why it is extremely important to flag down any witnesses following a crash. Having a witness as a backup to provide a statement regarding what happened in a crash can entirely change the viability and outcome of a case.
What if there are No Witnesses?
Even when there are no other human witnesses to a crash, there often are nearby cameras that can serve the same purpose. Nowadays, most businesses, homes, and even cars have security cameras that are constantly rolling. There are many locations on both public and private roads, parking lots, and areas where camera footage may have captured the car crash that you were involved in.
In these scenarios, time is of the essence. Most cameras only hold video storage between two days to a week before it is deleted entirely. It is important to go back and inspect the scene as soon as you are safely able to, to inspect if there were any cameras that could have captured the crash. If you identify a camera, then notify your attorney immediately so that they can work to obtain the footage.
When do I Get a Witness Statement?
While it is best practice to get witness statements as soon as possible after a crash occurs, we understand that this is not always possible. Getting clear statements at a crash scene can be difficult, especially if you or those in your vehicle were injured, as your number one priority is, and should be, to seek medical attention.
In most crashes, bystanders who witness them are typically forthcoming and will offer their help at the scene. However, if this is not the case, it is important to flag down any pedestrians or other drivers that may have witnessed the crash if possible. To ensure that there is a witness available for a statement if needed later, is as easy as taking down a name and phone number at the scene to give to your attorney. If you hire a personal injury attorney, they will handle all witness contacts and get their statement for you. Let us discuss your legal options in a free consultation. If you have a valid claim, we are ready to conduct an investigation and speak with any eyewitnesses.
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If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, hiring an attorney should be a strong consideration even if you have a pre-existing injury. Our law office is ready to help, so feel free to contact Ray Padilla Law, APC at (619) 431-1187 (San Diego) to speak with Attorney Ray Padilla directly. Please call even if it’s simply to ask, “what should I do?”