After a car accident, there are several important actions to take. You’ll need to get to safety as soon as possible, clear the road, and contact the police. But after that, you’ll need to think about the finances and logistics of the accident – who’s at fault here, and who’s going to pay for these damages?
If you’re not at fault in the accident, you’ll need to prove it. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time getting the compensation you deserve from the other party. In some cases, witnesses can provide the extra details and evidence necessary to help close a car accident case – but should you go out of your way to find a witness after an accident?
Why Witnesses Are Valuable
Witnesses can add new testimony to a case, often providing alternative perspectives and new information that can be used to determine the official narrative of what happened. If you’re in an accident with one other driver, each of you may insist that the other is the one who’s responsible; in the absence of video footage, it’s your word against theirs. But if a witness steps forth and validates your claims with their recollection of events, it could solidify your case.
When You Don’t Need a Witness
There are some instances where you won’t need a witness. If you have clear video footage of the accident from a dash cam or a security camera, a witness isn’t going to provide much additional value. If the accident is clear cut and all parties agree on what happened, and you even have a police report validating those claims, a witness probably won’t be necessary to ensure the proper outcome from the case. However, it usually doesn’t hurt to try and find a witness – and you’ll have them if you need them, even if the video footage is lost.
How to Find a Witness After an Accident
If you need or want to find a witness, there are a few important steps you’ll need to follow:
- Prioritize your safety. Your highest priority after being involved in a car accident is getting to safety, no matter what. Pull your car over to the side of the road, if you can, ensure the safety of all your passengers, and don’t take any actions that could introduce you to further harm. For example, it’s not a good idea to run into the street to track down a person who may have seen the accident occur from the beginning. Only once you’re safe and you’ve called for medical attention should you start thinking about witnesses.
- Remain calm. Throughout the aftermath of the accident, it’s important to stay calm. Your heart is probably racing and your adrenaline is spiking, but that’s no reason to yell at people or frantically try to get their attention. You’ll be much more productive and people will be more willing to talk to you if you remain as calm as possible.
- Check the immediate surroundings. Your first step in finding witnesses is checking your immediate surroundings. Are there any other drivers who have pulled over to see if you’re okay? Are there any pedestrians walking on the street who might have seen what happened? Oftentimes, witnesses will come to the scene to report what they’ve found, so this might be an easy step for you.
- Note buildings and homes. It’s also a good idea to take note of any buildings or homes in the immediate area; for example, is there a gas station nearby? Someone in one of these buildings could have seen or heard the accident – or they might even have camera footage that captured it from the beginning. You may want to talk to them later.
- Get a statement. When talking to a witness, try to get a statement on paper or on a recording. Memory tends to fade with time, and your witness may unknowingly change details in future recollections.
- Avoid leading or persuading. While taking a statement, don’t lead or persuade the witness. Let them explain what happened in their own words – otherwise, their statements could be withdrawn from consideration.
- Enlist help. Finding and talking to witnesses can be tough, so it pays to get help. Depending on the situation, a police officer or a lawyer can likely help you succeed.
With a witness on your side, you may have a better chance of winning the settlement you deserve – and making sure you’re not blamed for an accident that was never your fault to begin with. Car accidents can be a complicated legal area, so if you’re in doubt about what you should be doing, or if you need help getting justice, make sure you talk to a lawyer.