Tips for Dealing with Witnesses in a Personal Injury Case
When you bring a personal injury case, it’s up to you to prove the other side is at fault. You will need to gather evidence to show that the other party caused your injuries. How you go about doing this depends on the specific circumstances of the case. You might build your case using video evidence, photographs, an expert reconstruction of the scene or an admission from the other side.
One of the most powerful ways to build your case is by using witnesses. A witness is a person who saw, heard or otherwise experienced some aspect of the case. Even if you understand how important witnesses are, it’s crucial to use them effectively to present a strong case. Here are some tips for dealing with witnesses in your Las Vegas personal injury case.
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The first step to gathering high-quality witnesses in your case is finding them. If you or a friend or family member can, you may want approach witnesses at the scene of the accident to ask for their contact information. If the witnesses are willing to talk, you can ask them to tell you what they saw. Make quick notes of these conversations as soon as you can, so that you have a written record of your interaction with witnesses on the scene.
You can also find witnesses by returning to the site of the injury. There might be neighbors or other locals that saw an unsafe condition in the area days or weeks before your injury. Likewise, these people may have seen the other side act improperly on prior occasions. Also, they might also be able to point you to other individuals who spoke about seeing you get hurt. If you’re able to get any information about a witness like their name, you can look in online directories or on social media for full contact information.
Making the Most of Your Witnesses
When you’ve found a witness, your best bet is to ask them to make a statement as quickly as possible. Memories can fade, and what’s fresh in a person’s head right after the accident may not be so clear only a short time later.
If your witnesses are friendly, ask them to jot down what they remember from the incident. Tell them to write down everything they remember and not to worry about what details are the most important. Your attorney can later determine what information is critical within in their statement.
When Witnesses Aren’t Friendly
Even if a witness says that they don’t want to get involved, they may still be a valuable witness for you. If a witness doesn’t agree to make a statement or testify in court, there are things you can do to compel them to give their account at a deposition or testify at trial.
It’s important to keep in mind that tact is essential. Your attorney can help you evaluate the situation to determine when you may need to use a subpoena to compel a witness’ attendance at a deposition, hearing or trial.
Preparing Your Witnesses
Once you’ve identified your witnesses and scheduled them to testify, there are things you can do to help them give a compelling testimony. You can’t tell the witness what to say. However, there are things you can do to help them testify in a way that’s concise, understandable, and convincing.
First, tell the witness to answer only the question that’s asked. For example, if a lawyer asks the witness if the victim had anything in their hands at the time of the injury, the witness should answer “yes,” “no” or “I don’t know.” They shouldn’t tell the lawyer what was in the victim’s hands until they’re directly asked.
The witness shouldn’t volunteer information, embellish or guess about things that they don’t know. It’s okay to answer “I don’t know.” In fact, “I don’t know” is the correct answer when the other side asks repetitive or argumentative questions to try and rattle a witness.
You should prepare your witness for what happens during a deposition or trial. You should explain that your lawyer has the chance to ask questions. The other attorney can object to the questions, and the judge decides if the witness still has to answer. Once your lawyer asks all of the questions they want to ask, the other side has a chance to ask questions too. There may be a bit of back and forth as each side takes turns asking questions and objecting to questions from the other side.
During a trial, the witness should focus on telling the truth. They should be honest and forthcoming without volunteering information or exaggerating. It’s okay to remind a nervous witness that they’re not the one on trial. Their job is only to tell the jury what they saw and heard.
Choosing Whether to Use a Witness
Making the most of witnesses in your personal injury case means knowing when to call a witness and when to present your case without their testimony. A witness that is friendly and cooperative can still hurt your case. On the other hand, a witness that is downright hostile can help your case.
When you’re making the call, consider the witness’ knowledge of the facts. Then, look at their ability to communicate those facts competently and efficiently. Even a witness’ appearance can impact your decision of whether to call them to testify because a jury has a chance to see your witness as well as hear what they have to say. This is another area where your attorney can help you make the best decisions for your case.
Working With Your Attorney
Your attorney can help you utilize witnesses to build and present the best possible case. Whether you need to track down witnesses, gather their statements or make decisions about who to call at trial, an experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorney can put their knowledge to work to help you make the best possible decisions.
If you need to compel a witness’ attendance at trial, there are things that your attorney can do to make sure that your witnesses are present and ready to testify in your case. It’s important to remember that using witnesses is only one component of proving fault and building a strong case.
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