If there are witnesses to your car accident, they can be a valuable tool for proving your case and getting the recovery that you deserve. To make effective use of witnesses, you and your car accident lawyer will need to carefully decide what questions to ask them. Here are 20 different questions to consider asking a witness in an auto accident case.
1. Can you tell me in your own words how the accident occurred?
This is a great question to start with because it allows the witness to give their own narrative of events. They might add details that you wouldn’t think to ask. Once you hear them tell you about the accident in their own words, you can ask follow-up questions to fill in the gaps.
2. What was the first inkling you had that a crash occurred or that it was about to occur?
It’s helpful to know what caught the witnesses’ attention. For example, if they didn’t know that there was a problem until they heard an impact, they’re not in a good position to comment on how the accident occurred. If they saw what happened leading up to the crash, they might be a great witness for proving how the collision occurred.
3. From your perspective, how did the crash occur?
This is another open-ended question that’s designed to get as much information as possible from the witness. Before you ask for details, you should ask this open-ended question that allows the witness to give you an uninterrupted narrative about what they think is the most important.
4. Can you go into detail about how the crash occurred?
Now it’s time to ask for details. Here are some of the questions that you can ask to get more specific information about how the crash occurred:
- What lane was each vehicle in?
- Can you describe the stretch of road?
- Did either vehicle try to swerve or slam on their brakes?
- How fast was each vehicle traveling?
- How quickly did the accident occur?
- Where did the vehicles travel after the accident?
- Did you see debris from either vehicle or damaged property?
5. Where were you when the crash occurred?
Was the witness on foot or in a vehicle? Were they paying attention to the road or was their attention directed elsewhere?
6. How far were you from where the crash occurred?
Even a witness with the best of intentions may not have been in the right position to observe the crash. Finding out how far they were from the accident can tell you whether their observations were reliable. If they were close, their observations are going to be more credible than if they were 100 yards away.
7. Who was with you when the crash occurred?
Asking about others can give you additional leads for witnesses. You can compare their statements to see where they agree and where their observations differ. Also, asking about others nearby can tell you where a witness’ attention may have been leading up to the crash.
8. What did you do after the crash?
How a witness responds to a crash can tell you what they believed happened. Did they immediately call 911? Did they run to a vehicle and administer first aid? How the witness reacted to the crash can shed light on how serious they thought the accident was when it occurred.
9. Did you see any other people nearby who might be witnesses like you?
In addition to people who were nearby at the time of the crash, it’s important to ask about others that the witness might have seen. You might be able to use what you learn to track down other witnesses.
10. What was the weather when the accident occurred?
Weather can shed light on how the accident may have occurred. Slippery roads, high winds, rain, and other unusual weather can help you determine how the accident happened and whether the witnesses had an unobstructed view.
11. What did people do right after the accident occurred? Who got out of their vehicle first?
What people do immediately after the accident can be evidence of injuries. You should ask who got out of their vehicle and how they appeared.
12. Do you know anyone involved in the accident?
If a witness may be biased, you need to know. You may be surprised to learn that a witness knows one or more of the people involved in an accident.
13. Do you have any expertise relating to vehicles, accidents, weather or anything else related to the crash?
If a witness is a police officer, engineer or accident reconstructionist, their statement may be impacted by their professional training.
14. Did you hear anything that the other driver said? Did you hear what any other witnesses said?
Ask the witness what they directly heard anyone else say. You mainly want to know if the witness heard the other driver make any statements immediately after the crash. Don’t ask them to speculate. You need to know what they heard directly.
15. Where were you headed when you saw the accident?
This question can shed light on the witnesses’ attention. Were they flustered or in a hurry? Were they out for a leisurely stroll, or were they having a stressful day? Their answer can shed light on what they were thinking at the time of the crash.
16. Where were you looking before you noticed the accident? Were you on the phone?
Distractions can call a witnesses’ statement into doubt. If they were talking to someone in person, looking at their phone or looking in the other direction, their account may be less reliable than it would have been if they were looking directly at the crash without any distractions.
17. Did you have a clear view of everything that happened?
A witness may not always have a clear view of a crash. There may be other vehicles in the way or building obstruction. You need to know if the witness clearly saw what happened.
18. Is there anything else you want me to know?
The witness may be eager to offer more details that you didn’t think to ask.
19. Can you write your observations down and sign them for me?
Having the witness write down their observations gives you a record. You can use the record to impeach the witness if they give a different story later on.
20. What is your contact information? Do you have contact information for any other witnesses?
You may need to contact the witness again. They may also help you find other essential witnesses.
How a Car Accident Lawyer can help
A skilled attorney has years of experience questioning thousands of accident witnesses. They can help you question witnesses to use them to your advantage and build your case.
Your attorney will also be able to provide valuable insight into whether a witness is credible, and how to get the most information from a witness.