- Memories fade over time, so witnesses should be contacted and formally interviewed as soon as possible after a Georgia car, truck or motorcycle accident.
- Witnesses may be asked to provide sworn oral statements (depositions) or sign written statements (affidavits).
- If no other drivers stopped to speak with you or the police at the accident scene, contact local 911 and request audio and call logs to ID witnesses.
Most people believe in doing what’s right and seeing that people are treated fairly. This includes people who witness car accidents. A witness to a car wreck can be the difference between winning and losing your case – especially if the at-fault driver is trying to blame you or someone else for causing your Georgia car accident.
But memory fades over time. For this reason, it is always best to obtain witness statements as soon as possible after a car accident. It is also important to know what to ask witnesses to ensure that they provide information that can help your case.
You certainly can investigate your case on your own without hiring a Georgia accident lawyer. This article will explain some things that our car accident attorneys and investigators do while investigating a typical collision case.
How to Preserve Witness Testimony in Your Georgia Car Accident Case
Witness statements obtained early on can help you win your car accident case. The State of Georgia, and especially the Atlanta area constantly has people moving in and out, and passing through, the area. A good personal injury lawyer will recommend getting statements, affidavits or deposition testimony from eye-witnesses early in the claims process when the at-fault driver or their insurance company is fighting your claim.
At the scene of the wreck, try to get contact information from the witnesses including full names, addresses and telephone numbers. While this information sometimes appears in the police report, some witnesses are in a hurry to be somewhere else, and will leave before the police interview them.
If you are not able to get the witnesses contact information, or if no one stops to assist, sending a Georgia open records request to the local 911 communications office may allow you to obtain the audio recordings and a written transcript of calls made by passing motorists who called 911 to report the accident. Often their names or telephone numbers can be obtained in this way. Some drivers will even describe how the accident happened to the 911 operator, and this will have been audio recorded.
In any case, it can be wise to get a written statement, an affidavit — or best of all – a deposition from an eyewitness before he or she can move out of the area. It can take months or years before a civil case comes to trial, and can be difficult to track down witnesses at a later time.
Car Accident Witnesses Can Be Important Beyond What They “Saw”
Although we normally think about a bystander as an “eyewitness,” a witness to a car accident may also be able to explain what they:
- Saw before or after the accident (a weaving car, reckless driver or staggering drunk driver)
- Heard as the accident was happening (screeching brakes or no braking resulting in a frontal or rear end collision)
- Smelled (such a drive intoxicated on alcohol or marijuana).
Witnesses are important for other reasons as well:
- How many people were in the car and where they were sitting, which may help to understand a car occupant’s injuries.
- Who was driving? Some drunk or reckless drivers switch seats with a passenger before the police arrive.
- A witness familiar with the intersection or who lives near a dangerous intersection may explain how often accidents and near-accidents occur at the site of the wreck.
- Hit and Run — a witness to a car accident may be able to describe someone they saw run away from a car involved in an accident.
Should You Hire a Private Investigator to Find and Interview Witnesses?
This can be a good idea. Not only can a Georgia licensed private investigator locate and interview witnesses, the right investigator who is a proper notary can also take a sworn statement in the form of an Affidavit. One thing to keep in mind is that private investigators can be expensive. Most lawyers who specialize in personal injury and car accident cases can hire an investigator for you or use office staff to investigate, reducing your costs. This is a benefit to hiring an experienced and well funded injury attorney.
Interviewing Witnesses Can Usually Prevent a Nasty Surprise Later in Your Case
As part of a thorough car accident investigation, it is important for an experienced investigator to talk to anyone who has witnessed the crash. Memories fade over time, so witnesses should be contacted as soon as possible after an accident and formally interviewed. Their statement can be reviewed with the witness before he or she testifies later in the case. You don’t want to call a witness to trial who does not remember what happened.
Additionally, a witness statement typically does not stand alone in a car accident case, but it usually provides valuable information. A witness may corroborate or contradict what’s in the police report or prove that an at-fault driver is lying about how the wreck happened.
Contradictions may also be resolved through further investigation. In some cases, a witness’s statement, or multiple statements, may cause a client and his or her attorney to reassess the legal options available for a claim.
Witness Statements Can Help Settle Your Georgia Injury Case Faster and For More Money
Many cases can be settled through negotiation if witness statements are included in the evidence presented to an insurance company. When the insurance adjuster is convinced that you can beat the defendant and the insurance company in court, this can greatly increase the chance for a faster and larger settlement offer. In cases that go to trial, a witness who has provided a deposition or an affidavit may (and often should) also testify in person.
Need An Award Winning Georgia Law Firm?
Representing yourself in a personal injury case, especially when your injury is more than a minor inconvenience, may not be your best option. The Millar Law Firm has one of Georgia’s most experienced legal teams standing by to help you, or just to answer any questions you may have. Call our Atlanta car accident lawyers or South Atlanta injury attorneys in Jonesboro, Clayton County, GA today and speak with a friendly, helpful and compassionate attorney today. 770-400-0000.