Witnesses play a vital role in our legal system. Depending on their credibility, ability to comprehend questions and memory, witnesses can either solidify or sink a lawsuit. When you hire a car accident lawyer, consider the lawyer’s ability to obtain and preserve effective witness statements that help you prove the other driver’s fault, your injuries and your own lack of negligence. These witness statements often arise from law enforcement accident investigations, medical reports and depositions taken during the course of lawsuits.
Witnesses Explain How the Crash Happened
Drivers in car accidents often present differing views of what happened. To deflect fault, the participants dispute whose light was green, speed, whether a driver had a turn signal or brake lights and whether a driver obeyed a stop or yield sign. Witnesses may supply statements or testimony in legal proceedings to answer disputed questions of facts or fill gaps in the proof. Their accounts can supplement photographs or videos of the vehicles and law enforcement reports.
With a very good witness to the crash, you might even avoid the necessity and expense of having to hire an accident reconstruction expert to analyze in-vehicle data recorders to explain how the crash occurred.
Witnesses Can Show the Crash Was Not Your Fault (or Mostly Not Your Fault)
In a small minority of states, any fault on your part — even one percent — that contributes to your injuries prevents you from recovery. Nevada uses a “modified comparative negligence” scheme to determine your right to recover. Under this rule, you can recover damages if you’re no more than 50 percent to blame in causing the wreck. Those damages get reduced by the percentage of your own fault. For example, if you suffered $50,000 of medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering at the hands of a negligent driver, but you were 20 percent at fault, you can receive $40,000. That translates to a reduction of $10,000 (20 percent of $50,000) in the other drivers’ responsibility for your damages.
Of course, a car accident attorney aims to maximize your recovery to the extent possible. Witnesses can help establish that you were a completely innocent driver. Such evidence of no-fault may include that you stayed in your lane, you stopped at the stop sign or red light, you had on your turn signals and that your lights (brakes, turn signals and headlights) were working.
Witnesses Help You Prove the Other Driver is to Blame
Proving the other driver’s negligence is a prerequisite to a successful claim. A reliable witness can testify that the other driver ran the red light or stop sign, entered an intersection while you were in it or turned suddenly in front of you.
Witnesses may have observed actions that show a heightened level of guilt called “gross negligence.” This type of negligence arises when the at-fault driver’s conduct is wanton or willful and exhibits a lack of care for known consequences. Evidence of impaired driving by the defendant often establishes gross negligence and may readily come from a blood alcohol content test on record in a related criminal prosecution. When the driver refuses and there is no blood alcohol content test, eyewitness proof may include weaving by the driver or the odor of alcohol (especially when that eyewitness is a law enforcement officer).
Witnesses may also have seen as indicia of gross negligence prolonged weaving, speeding or not looking at the road or someone appearing to have been texting or looking at a smartphone while driving. An at-fault driver guilty of gross negligence cannot raise your fault as a defense or in reducing your damages and faces punitive damages.
Witnesses Show the Extent of Your Injuries
Witness statements help create the link between the crash and your injuries and the extent of the harm. Emergency responders chronicle in their records your appearance and your condition. These statements prove reliable because they are made often at the time of the observations. You may have bystanders who may note that you looked confused, disoriented or unstable following the wreck.
Don’t forget those witnesses who see you in the days, weeks and even months after the car accident. They may observe changes in your attitude, activities, and behaviors before and after the accident. With this evidence, car accident attorneys attempt to establish pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
Witnesses Might Negate Your Claim of Injuries
When pursuing your claim, car accident attorneys will want witness statements that may portray your injuries as less serious than you contend. Witnesses at the accident scene may have seen you walking, moving and talking normally and otherwise as if you’re not harmed. Statements you made to paramedics, police officers, firefighters or others that you feel “fine,” don’t need an ambulance or are not hurt can haunt you when you later claim serious injuries in an effort to fetch a high-dollar verdict or settlement.
Determining When a Witness Can Help or Hurt Your Cause
Effective witnesses lack bias. That is, they have no personal, financial or other stakes in the outcome of the lawsuit. Those involved in the crash carry the baggage of wanting the facts in the light most favorable to them in order to maximize the chances of recovery or avoiding responsibility. Passengers may have claims against drivers of the vehicles in which they rode as well as drivers of other vehicles. In regards to witness credibility, a car accident attorney lawyer Las Vegas will look to reports by first responders. Statements made to and observations by rescue workers aid in treatments for injured drivers or passengers and typically carry strong weight by courts.
The strength of eyewitness testimony turns on the physical and mental state of the witness and whether something distracted the witness from seeing the anatomy of the crash. Juries or insurance adjusters likely won’t trust witnesses who were drinking considerably, using controlled substances or failed to wear glasses or contact lenses. Those who might not be able to describe sufficiently the circumstances of the crash may still prove useful in testifying about the reactions of the drivers or passengers or the injuries. In this group lie those who notice a crash primarily or only because of the sounds of colliding vehicles or sights of crowds flocking to the crash scene.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
Nevada law affords you two years after a crash to file a lawsuit. Among other reasons, the statute of limitations exists so that accident attorneys can preserve witness recollections of the details of the crash and witnesses. You want to promptly contact a car accident lawyer in Las Vegas, so you will avoid the trap of making damaging statements to insurance companies or settling for less than what the law may entitle you to recover if you’re injured in a car accident.