Witnesses often represent one of the critical pieces to any successful car accident claim. For many car accident cases, the only witnesses involved in the case are the drivers who were involved in the accident. This can quickly lead to a “you said, they said” situation where it is the word of one driver against another. However, where a car accident case involves neutral third-party witnesses, it can help break the “tie” in any conflict between the involved drivers’ testimony. This is why the credibility of witnesses in car accident claims becomes so important.
Why Are Witnesses Important?
When insurance companies and juries evaluate car accident claims, they will often want to hear from a neutral, third-party eyewitness who observed the accident. These witnesses can help resolve conflicts or discrepancies in the accounts of each of the drivers involved in the crash, allowing an insurer or a jury to determine which driver’s version of the accident is most credible or accurate.
Can Eyewitnesses Be Credible?
Even where a third-party eyewitness is involved in a car accident claim, their testimony may only be helpful where an insurer or jury finds the eyewitness credible. Insurers or juries may have reason to question the credibility of an eyewitness, especially if their attention was only focused on the accident after the moment of collision, or if an eyewitness was also a driver near the collision who was likely more focused on avoiding being involved in the crash themselves. The shock and chaos of a car accident can also make it necessary for eyewitnesses to try to piece together what they saw after the fact, potentially making their testimony somewhat unreliable.
How to Determine Witness Credibility
There are many factors that can affect how an insurance company or jury views the credibility of a third-party eyewitness, such as:
- Was the witness in a vehicle nearby the accident (and therefore trying to avoid being involved in the accident) or was the witness a bystander observing the crash from a safe distance?
- When did the witness begin observing the accident? Did they see what the cars were doing in the moments leading up to the collision? Or was their attention only drawn to the accident after hearing screeching brakes or the sound of a collision?
- Did the witness have any distractions or demands on their attention at the time of the accident, such as looking at their cell phone, walking a dog, or attending to a young child?
- Is the witness testifying based on their own personal observations? Or are they also relying on the observations of other people who witnessed the accident?
Character-related factors can also affect a witness’ credibility:
- Does the witness have a criminal record?
- Does the witness have a reputation in the community for dishonesty?
- Does the witness have a financial or personal interest in the outcome of the case (such as being related to one of the drivers)?
The witness’s physical condition may also impact credibility determinations, including factors such as:
- The witness’s eyesight and hearing ability.
- Whether the witness was wearing corrective lenses if they have been prescribed them
- Whether the witness was intoxicated
- The witness’s memory and cognitive ability
Contact a Erie Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Car Accident Case in Pennsylvania
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to a car accident in Pennsylvania? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. represent clients injured because of car accidents in Millcreek, Harborcreek, Fairview, Meadville, and throughout Pennsylvania. Call (814) 833-7100 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 2525 W. 26th St., Erie, P.A. 16506, as well as offices in Meadville and North East.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.