In today’s blog post, I will talk about who makes a good witness for your personal injury case. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to check out some of our previous blog posts introducing the types of witnesses in a personal injury case. In this video, I want to share some of the things injury lawyers look for in a witness.
Read blog post: Types of witnesses in a personal injury case
If you’ve ever watched TV shows about the law, you probably think about witnesses in a courtroom, answering questions from lawyers in front of a judge and jury. But the fact is, working with witnesses usually begins with detective work. Our first step is identifying who can even serve as a witness in the first place.
Who can act as a witness for my accident claim?
If you remember the video where we discuss lay witnesses, a witness must know things from his or her own experience that can help you prove a part of your case, but that’s only the beginning. Unlike an expert witness, a lay witness, in most cases, cannot retell a story they heard from someone else. It must be an experience that person had using one of their five senses.
While this doesn’t necessarily tell us who will be a good witness, it can help us to exclude people who cannot be a witness.
What makes for a good liability witness?
Well, a good memory of course, is a starting point, but the best witnesses have an eye for detail. I like to think of a witness as a camera. Can the person show us through their own words, what they experienced and in a way, bring us back to that time and place.
For example, a good liability witness might tell us about the relative speed of two cars, when exactly the light changed or where a driver was looking when the car accident happened.
Contrast this with a not-so-great witness who tells us only that the driver was not paying attention or that the sidewalk was icy, but they’re not sure how icy, or what day it was that they saw the ice.
What makes for a good damages witness?
A damages witness is someone who sheds some light on the harms and losses suffered as a result of the injury. A good damages witness will be able to tell us what they see you do and not do since the crash. They could share with the jury how you used to be able to pitch baseballs to the nine-year-olds on your child’s little league team. And how, since the crash, you stand on the sidelines with a clipboard and aren’t able to participate in the practices. Contrast this with the witness who says only, “He’s in pain all the time.”
Great witnesses are also great storytellers
A related quality of a good witness is someone who can tell a story. We all know people who are engaging and know how to hold the attention of a group of people. They’ll share an experience using the present tense and bring some emotion to the retelling.
In a sense, they’re performers.
A good storyteller can convey how you once helped their child hit their first baseball; how the child’s face lit up and so did yours; how you ran to home plate to give them a high five, and how since the crash, you’re just not the same coach you used to be.
You’re not able to run with the kids, bend over to collect the baseballs, or even to pitch the ball. You’ve since stepped down from your role as head coach, and now they see you in the dugout, on the bench, working on the rosters; trying to help in any way you can, but it’s just not the same.
Now contrast this with the witness that can only think to say you’re in pain all the time and just sit around a lot.
Now, which person would you like to hear from if you were on the jury?
We don’t all have the luxury of being surrounded by great storytellers who also happened to be great potential witnesses, but it does help to be thinking about who you know that does possess these qualities.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, take some time to make a list of people in your life who might be good witnesses. Usually, you don’t have much choice when it comes to liability or fault witnesses. But with harm or “damages” witnesses, the people in your life who can share stories and have an eye for detail will make great candidates when it comes time to prove your case in court.