Witnesses can be crucial to determining and proving liability in a car accident case. We represent many clients who have suffered injuries in car accidents and frequently the only initial witnesses are the two drivers leading to a “he said – she said” situation. That is where diligent efforts to locate and speak to witnesses of the car crash can make all the difference between winning and losing a case. While we can use physical evidence to prove liability, an eyewitness account can be persuasive and telling. Here at the Schlitt Law Firm, we have developed extensive techniques for identifying, locating and using witness testimony in car accident cases.
The Obvious Witnesses to a Car Accident
The first and most obvious witness to a car accident is our client. We carefully interview our clients to understand their understanding of the incident and to gather all possible information. Sometimes a stray fact may lead to more information and a clearer understanding of an incident.
In many cases, there were friends or family in the same vehicle as our clients and some discount these “friendly” witnesses, but that is a mistake. Often, the other person can remember key details that can flesh out the understanding of a car crash or support our understanding of a crash.
Witnesses to a Car Crash Identified by Our Clients
A car crash can be profoundly disturbing and disorientating. The collision can leave a person injured, even unconscious, and in no condition to identify or speak to witnesses. Nonetheless, many people are alert and ambulatory after a collision and can identify potential witnesses. If you are in a car accident, it is helpful to identify witnesses and obtain their contact information even if that is only a phone number or email address.
We have had cases where witnesses spoke to our clients and volunteered themselves as witnesses. They provided business cards and contact information so they could help an injured person.
Witnesses Identified in the Police Report
The Police Report prepared by officers responding to a car accident can provide vital information. Many Police Reports contain witness information or even statements. We represent clients in car crashes on Long Island and in New York City. The Police Reports prepared by Suffolk County Police Officers often contain complete witnesses statements and contact information for the witnesses, making them the best such documents in the New York Metropolitan area. At the other end of the spectrum, one never knows what one will find on a New York City Police Report. Some contain extensive information in neatly written handwriting while others are nearly illegible or contain little or even wrong information. We had one case where our client was struck by a car crossing Third Avenue in Manhattan, yet the Police Report listed the incident as occurring on First Avenue. Using the ambulance report and tracking down an eyewitnesses clarified the location and the cause of the accident leading to a $100,000 settlement.
We identify all possible parties named in the police report, including other drivers. Every scrap of information can be helpful in developing a case.
Canvassing the Area of a Car Accident
If we are unable to identify witnesses from our client or the Police Report, we may canvas the scene of the car accident for witnesses. This work may involve knocking on the doors of neighboring homes or buildings or speaking to area shop keepers. In a Long Island case involving a bicyclist struck by a car, there were no witnesses on the Police Report, but we spoke to nearby storekeepers until we identified two witnesses who corroborated our client’s version of events and led to a $100,000 settlement.
In a New York City case involving a bicyclist struck by a car, we spoke to neighbors and store keepers and found some people who heard, but did not see the car crash. Yet their aural recollection helped prove that the driver who struck our client did not sound her horn and made no effort to avoid the crash, thus helping prove her liability.
We have placed signs near an accident scene and that has helped identify witnesses. In one case, a call in response to a sign led to a witnesses who helped break a case that resulted in a $1.25 million wrongful death settlement.
Using Surveillance Cameras to Find Witnesses to a Car Accident
We know from the news, TV and the movies that we are surrounding by surveillance cameras recording activity at many public locations. Of course, gaining access to those videos is not always as easy as the crime drama shows make it seem. One needs to find cameras that might have captured video of a car accident and then gain access to the film. Sometimes, knocking on doors or requesting access is sufficient, but one may need to go to court to subpoena records. The courts do not always grant access to videos. There are some public cameras whose tapes become available through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) filing.
Finding Car Accident Witnesses through Social Media
In a terrible Long Island car accident case that resulted in the death of two teenagers, we found some potential witnesses through Twitter by tracing Tweets sent from the accident scene. We found a witnesses in a New York City case through Facebook.
Just as we have posted physical signs near the scenes of certain car accidents, we have also posted notices on Facebook and other social media sites in an effort to find witnesses.
Seeking Out Car Accident Witnesses through Other Sources
Combing through available material can lead to potential sources of witnesses. For example, if an unknown person called 911 to report the accident, we have obtained 911 transcripts to find witnesses. In another case, we tracked down the photographer who took photos for a newspaper because he had critical information about a car crash.
Finding a Witness to Make a Difference in a Car Accident Case
There is no one way to find a witness and each car accident case will have its own features and requirements. As you can see from this brief article, finding witnesses requires knowledge of a case, close analysis of all facts and evidence and knowledge of potential ways to find witnesses. Most of all, finding witnesses to a car accident case requires the application of experience, creativity, hard work and, most of all, commitment to doing the best job possible for a client. We remind ourselves to never simply “process” a case, but to work each case as best we can. We owe it to ourselves and most of all, we owe it to our clients.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, you may want to consult a New York personal injury attorney experienced with car accident cases. At the Schlitt Law Firm, we would be glad to answer your questions and assist you. There is never a charge for the consultation. You can call us at 1-800-660-1466 or email us.
The Schlitt Law Firm
New York Personal Injury Attorney
This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney. Remember, past results do not guarantee similar outcomes in the future.
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