Having witnesses come forward to give a statement after a car accident is incredibly helpful. When someone who had nothing to do with the accident and no reason to lie backs up your story, it can help strengthen your claim and back up your assertions. But how do you get these statements, and what kinds of statements do you need?
The best witness statements are ones made in court or during official depositions, where the witness comes forward to testify. If you can get a witness’ contact information and bring them in to testify, that is ideal. If not, then you may be left with statements they made at the time of the crash, and some of these can also help you prove your claim – but only if they are admissible as evidence.
For help with your car accident case, call Howe Law’s Georgia car accident attorneys at (844) 876-4357 for a free case review.
The Best Witness Statements for a Georgia Car Accident Claim
The best kind of evidence from eyewitnesses is actual testimony in court. When a witness comes forward and puts themselves under oath to give their view of what happened in your case, it is usually considered some of the strongest evidence that a car accident victim can present.
At the scene of the crash, if any witnesses come forward, make sure to get their name and contact information. With this, your Columbus car accident lawyers can reach out to them later and see if they are willing to come forward and testify in a deposition as to what they saw happen. If they are uncooperative or change their mind about testifying, we might even be able to have the court subpoena them to come in and testify.
Eyewitness testimony is even stronger when it meets the following criteria:
Witness is Unrelated to the Accident
If you were injured while driving a car with your mom and your sibling and your best friend, they can all act as witnesses in your case. However, they are all clearly “on your side” and might not be the most objective witnesses. Witnesses that had nothing to do with the crash are often stronger witnesses, such as another driver that saw the crash, a passerby standing on the street corner, or even a police officer stopped at the intersection.
Witness Saw the Whole Accident
If your witness’ testimony begins with something along the lines of, “I heard a loud bang and turned around,” then they probably did not actually see the accident happen. While this kind of witness can testify about what cars they saw damaged and which people got out of the driver’s seats, they cannot testify as to what happened leading up to the crash. Witness testimony is better if they saw the accident from start to finish because they can back up claims about who ran a red light, who was speeding, or other details about the accident.
If the witness’ story changes every time they tell it, they might not be trustworthy. Similarly, if they were at the scene of the accident because of some questionable reason, they might not be the kind of person you want on your side in front of a jury. It is also typically responsible for a lawyer to vet the witness and look into past criminal charges that might be used to undermine the witness on the stand.
Inadmissible Witness Statements in Georgia Car Accidents
Many people focus on the idea that a witness might be able to “give a statement” after an accident. This is often helpful when lawyers and insurance companies are trying to determine what happened, and a written or recorded statement from an eyewitness can be important – but these kinds of statements are not often admissible in court.
Insurance companies, police officers, and lawyers will rely on witness statements like this to help them figure out what happened and learn more information when building a case. Witness statements help lawyers determine what the witness knows before they get to the stand, but you and your lawyer cannot necessarily present that statement as evidence.
Georgia’s Hearsay Rules
The Georgia Rules of Evidence, like most evidence rules, have a rule against “hearsay.” Under Rule 801, hearsay is any statement made out of court that is used in court to try to make a factual claim. For example, if you testify on the stand and say, “Jeff said he saw the driver drinking before the crash,” then that is hearsay. Rule 802 blocks hearsay from being used unless it meets certain exceptions. In this case, Jeff’s statement would probably be inadmissible, and you would need to call Jeff as a witness and have him say under oath that he saw the defendant drinking to be able to present that information to the court.
A lot of witness statements fall into this same category, and you cannot go up on the stand and say that a witness told you this or the officer at the scene told you that. Instead, you will often need those witnesses there in court to testify in their own right.
Witness Statements in Police Reports
This issue commonly arises with witness statements contained in police reports. Usually, the officer writing the report did not see the accident happen, and much of what they write down is reported to them by someone else. Additionally, any quotes they write down were definitely said by someone else. Both the report itself and any quotes in the report would be hearsay and cannot be used as evidence unless they meet special hearsay exceptions.
Under Rule 803(8), some parts of a police report might be admissible, but it is important to check with a lawyer.
There are certain exceptions that allow statements by either party to be admitted by the other side. Otherwise, most exceptions do not help when it comes to admitting witness statements. One exception that will help in many car accident injury cases is that statements made in a deposition can be used again at trial if the witness is unavailable to testify.
Previous statements can also be used to help a witness refresh their recollection of events. For example, if a witness forgets what happened, they can look over their previous statement to remind themselves. However, their testimony is stronger if they recite the facts from memory rather than having to look them up each time.
Call Our Car Accident Lawyers for Help with Your Georgia Injury Case
Call (844) 876-4357 for a free case evaluation with Howe Law’s Atlanta car accident attorneys.