After a car accident, liability has to be determined. Often, the drivers involved in the accident will dispute who caused the collision, and their insurance companies do not want to have to pay as well. That is why witnesses to the accident are so important; they provide a third-party account of what happened.
No one expects to get into an accident, so even when the driver wants to be honest and responsible, it may be difficult to recount exactly what took place. In a car accident, drivers have only split seconds to react. Most car accident victims are busy trying to avoid damage and injuries that they are unaware of the bigger picture, but witnesses can help.
Injured car accident victims might be eligible for compensation if they can prove the other driver was at fault. If there is limited proof of fault, the testimony of a witness may make or break the chances of recovering compensation. Without a witness, the other driver’s insurance company will be unlikely to settle the claim favorably. The opposite is also true and if there is a reliable witness to back up a claim; the insurance company will have a harder time denying it. If the case has to go to court, a good lawyer can use witness testimony to dispute the defendant’s version of events.
What Makes a Good Witness?
A good witness is one who can give an impartial account of the accident. Location and viewpoint are important factors. Not every person present at the scene of an accident makes a good witness. For instance, the passengers in the vehicles involved in the crash are witnesses to what happened, but they are not likely to have a complete or impartial view of the accident. Often, they are preoccupied at the time and do not even realize what happened.
Outside of the vehicles involved in the accidents, there could be bystanders, pedestrians, or cyclists. While they may see the accident firsthand, it is questionable whether they can give a reliable account of what happened. Often, these types of witnesses are scrambling to get out of the way of the action to ensure their own safety.
The best kind of witness is someone who was not involved in any way with the accident and who was far enough away that they were able to observe the whole event from start to finish, not just when they heard the impact of the crash. When two drivers have different and conflicting versions of an accident, insurance companies will be looking to find a solid witness to support one version and verify its accuracy.
The following are some of the characteristics that the most credible witnesses have in common:
- The witness has a good reputation and no criminal record.
- The witness is unrelated to any of the drivers in the accident and has no personal stake in the outcome of the case.
- The witness is physically fit and has good eyesight, hearing, and a good memory.
How can I Find Witnesses After a Car Accident?
It is important to know what to do if one is ever involved in a car accident. The steps taken afterwards can influence the outcome of a case. After a car accident, the first step to do is to check all the vehicle occupants for injuries. If there are serious injuries, immediately call 9-1-1 for medical help. If everyone is okay and emergency medical help is not needed, the police should be notified.
Once on the scene, the police will make an official report and take statements from the drivers. Never admit to anything or apologize; any admission of guilt could be used by the insurance company to deny coverage. Do not give a verbal statement to the insurance company without first speaking to a car accident lawyer.
At the scene of the accident, take photographs or videos of any damage to vehicles and property, weather and road conditions, and skid marks or tire tracks on the road. Gather as much evidence as possible to show what happened in the accident. Look around for anyone who witnessed what happened and ask them what they saw. This could be pedestrians, construction workers, employees, customers of a nearby business, or people who stopped to provide help.
Write down their version of events or record it and get their contact information for future reference. If they make their own written statement, ask them to sign and date it. Another good source of information is video surveillance footage from security cameras in the area. Businesses, ATMs, and traffic cameras can provide this kind of video evidence.
How is Liability Determined in Virginia?
Some states follow the rule of comparative negligence in determining liability for a car accident. The parties involved are assigned a percentage of responsibility for the accident and are awarded compensation based on this amount. For instance, if damages awarded equal $10,000 but the driver was 30 percent responsible for the accident happening, they would receive $7,000.
Virginia is one of the few states that uses the concept of pure contributory negligence. Under Virginia law, if a driver contributes to the cause of the accident in any way, they may not recover any compensation for their injuries. It is up to the driver making a claim to prove that the other motorist was 100 percent at fault for the accident. This is why it can be crucial to have witnesses in a car accident case. A successful case for compensation could result in some or all of the following types of damages:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
In cases where the driver that caused the accident was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, punitive damages may be awarded. Since contributory negligence applies in Virginia, a witness statement can mean the difference between being compensated and receiving nothing.
Do I Need a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
Since Virginia requires the plaintiff to prove their case, representation by an experienced lawyer can have many benefits. They will investigate the cause of the car accident and help identify reliable witnesses to support the claim, as well as gather evidence, including:
- Driving record of other driver.
- Maintenance records that evaluate the safety of the other vehicle.
- Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests of the other driver.
- Drug test results.
- Cellphone records showing if calls and texts were made at the time of the crash.
- Expert testimony from a consultant, engineer, or another valid party.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Acquire Witness Testimonies to Strengthen Personal Injury Cases
If a negligence driver caused your collision, contact a Virginia Beach car accident lawyer today. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we obtain witness statements to help car accident victims. Call us at 757-352-2237 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we represent clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.