After an auto accident, it is required of the plaintiff to prove that the defendant caused the injuries and is responsible. The burden of proof is not on the defense. If you do not have sufficient evidence, insurance companies may reduce the settlement value or deny your claim altogether. If you go to trial, your case may be dismissed for a lack of evidence.
Witnesses are ideal when there is no physical proof, but also can help back up the physical evidence that you or your attorney have already collected for your case.
When You Have Witnesses
After an accident, it is imperative that you seek out the names and contact information of witnesses. These individuals may leave the accident scene relatively quickly; so, speak to everyone as soon as possible. You do not need an official statement from them. Instead, just ask for contact information so that you can get in touch with them later.
Your attorney may contact the witnesses later if he or she decides that they are needed. From there, your attorney will decide how to use their testimony and determine what evidence that testimony helps establish.
When You Have No Witnesses
Sometimes, your injuries are too severe to gather witness names and contact information, while other times there are no witnesses present at the scene of the accident.
There are things that you can do to document the accident and improve the strength of your claim. For example, you may take photos using your smartphone. This helps establish the accident scene, placement of the vehicles, and area around you.
Assessing the Quality of the Evidence
Sometimes, the evidence is strong enough that your attorney does not need witnesses. The more information you gather immediately at the scene, the more likely your attorney is able to settle your claim without assistance from witnesses.
Also, witnesses may be needed if the evidence is limited or weak. For example, you may not have enough evidence to establish that the other driver was at fault, but witness testimony can help bring all your evidence together and prove that the defendant did cause the accident.
There are things that you can do immediately after an accident to improve the strength of your evidence, such as:
- Take photographs at the accident scene.
- Document everything – from the moment the accident occurs, and throughout your recovery. Write down any one you speak to, what is said, the date and time you spoke, and even the injuries and feelings you experience during your recovery.
- Keep all medical documents together, including any payments that you make to medical providers or statements sent to you by your own insurer for coverage on your accident injuries.
Speak with an Attorney
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, talk to your attorney about your options. Even if you do not have witnesses or if the evidence seems weak, there is no harm in speaking to an attorney. Often, an attorney can gather evidence that you did not know existed.