You're suing for damages after a devastating car accident, and besides physical proof like car repairs and personal injury bills, you have several witnesses who can back up your story. That sounds like an easy win, right? The courts say not so fast. While it's true that having a witness can make or break a car accident case, not all witness statements are made equal. Below are a few examples of situations when witnesses may prove to be less reliable than expected.
They Only Saw the Point of Impact
In court, the seconds leading up to the crash are often the most important because they can shed a light on everything from each driver's behavior to road conditions. While witness statements that describe exactly how the cars involved collided are still valuable, they don't carry nearly as much weight as most first-time claimants imagine.
They Were Distracted
If one of your witnesses was busy talking or texting away on the phone, you probably already know that his or her statement isn't ideal, but in the courtroom, the definition for distractions is much broader than that. For example, walking the dog, pushing a stroller or having a drink or two at brunch earlier in the day can also count against otherwise credible witnesses.
They Know You Too Well
If the accident took place in your neighborhood, it's possible that you know the people who observed it personally. Unfortunately, the connection can hurt your case by making it appear more likely that your witnesses might – whether consciously or unconsciously – tweak their testimonies to help someone they know.
They Have Prior Criminal Records
It seems unfair to bring up a criminal record in a simple civil case like a car accident claim, but the courts consider it to be a useful tool for determining witness credibility, especially in cases that move to trial, where the stakes are higher than in settlement negotiations.
In any circumstances, always keep in mind that the defendant's attorney's job is to discredit your witnesses, and he or she will naturally use any opportunity to do so. If there are any gaps at all in your witnesses' testimonies or any black marks on their personal records – even those that seem unrelated to the case – be prepared for them to be fully exploited.
For a better idea of how the other side's counsel will handle your witness statements, bring them to a personal injury attorney with experience in car accident claims. Because they work with similar cases on a daily basis, accident attorneys can instantly spot and tackle potential witness weaknesses that may not be obvious to someone without legal training and relevant experience in the courtroom.