While car accidents only take a second to occur, the effects of crashes can last for years, and even a lifetime when injuries sustained are severe. As such, it is very important that a person who is involved in a car accident initiate the claims process to recover compensation for their damages.
Because West Virginia maintains a traditional tort liability system, those who are involved in car crashes must prove the fault of the other party in order to recover damages. While there are a number of evidence types that can be useful in establishing fault, witnesses are one of the most valuable.
The Importance of Witnesses in an Auto Accident
One of the first questions that a police officer or an insurance adjuster will ask following a car accident or processing a claim is: Were there any witnesses? This is because the testimony of a witness can be used to reconstruct the accident and create a picture of what happened. What’s more, because the testimonies of the two drivers, and any passengers, involved often differs based on personal biases, the statements of a witness or multiple witnesses can clear up discrepancies and offer more accuracy regarding what really happened.
What Makes a Good Witness?
While witnesses are a critical part of the claims process, particularly when there are disputes or discrepancies over what happened, not all witnesses are created equal. To be sure, some witnesses are much more credible than others. If you are involved in a car accident in West Virginia, you should prioritize finding credible witnesses who can provide an insurance adjuster with their version of events. Things that affect the credibility and value of a witness include:
- Activity the witnesses was performing at the time of collision. Believe it or not, another driver may not be the best witness for your claim, unless the other driver was a safe enough distance away from the accident and therefore was not focused on avoiding it, which could have been distracting or created a bias. Someone who was a safe distance from the accident, such as a pedestrian on the other side of the street, and who had the ability to watch the entire accident unfold is ideal.
- Witnesses’ relationship to you or the other driver. Sure, the passenger in the backseat of your car at the time that your accident unfolded may be the ideal witnesses because they saw everything, and can provide a truthful play-by-play of what happened. However, to an insurance adjuster, someone who knows you may be biasing their story to protect you, and therefore isn’t the best
- Witnesses’ physical and mental health. A witnesses that is in good physical and mental health, particularly as these pertain to vision, hearing, and psychological stability, is more ideal. In fact, the testimony of a person who has very poor vision, or who has a history of hallucination or other psychological complications may not be relied upon.
- Other personality traits and personal history. Unfortunately, the testimonies of certain people with certain backgrounds may be given less weight than the testimonies of others. For example, the testimony of a convicted felon may not be as highly valued as the testimony of a school teacher.
Finding Witnesses to Testify after Your Car Accident
If you are physically able to, looking for witnesses directly following your accident (while still at the scene and waiting for police to arrive) is ideal. You should ask these witnesses for their names, contact information, and for a brief description of what they saw and ask them to stick around to provide a statement to police when they arrive. If you are injured and unable to do this, hopefully, witnesses will stick around regardless and provide statements to police.
When you hire an experienced West Virginia car accident lawyer, part of the lawyer’s job is to track down witnesses and get a statement of what they saw. When you hire our law firm, we prioritize the collection of all types of evidence important to your case, and know how to find important witnesses who may be able to support your claim.
Contact Our Law Offices for Your Free Consultation Today
There is no doubt that witnesses are important when pursuing a car accident claim. However, some witnesses are better than others. What’s more, there are some cases when there are no witnesses to a car accident, and yet the claimant can still recover their full damages amount based on other types of available evidence.
If you’ve been in a crash, learn more about how to gather evidence and how our attorneys can help. Contact our talented West Virginia car accident law firm today or simply call us at (304) 345-0346
for a free consultation.