Who can act as a witness for my personal injury claim?
In this video, I will talk about the importance of lay witnesses in a personal injury case.
Anyone who’s ever seen a TV show about the legal system knows that witnesses are an important part of a trial and witness testimony in a courtroom can be very dramatic.
I want to introduce two roles that lay witnesses can play in your case and how they can be important to you if you’ve been injured and are thinking about a legal claim.
Personal Injury Claim Basics
As a reminder, in every personal injury claim, you as the injured person have to prove that there is someone responsible for the harm (that is, “liable”), that you were injured and suffered consequences or what we call damages and that there’s a cause and effect relationship between the negligence and the harm done.
See video: 3 parts of a successful car accident claim
Types of Witnesses in injury claims
When we talk about witnesses, it’s important to think about where a witness will fit into your case.
- Liability witnesses will help you prove the fault
- Notice Witness will help you prove fault in certain kinds of cases, for instance where you must show that the other party knew of a dangerous condition but did not fix it
- Damages witnesses will help you prove the harm done
- Causation witnesses will usually be expert witnesses who can speak to some of the technical parts of your case. Expert witnesses will be the subject of a separate post.
What is a Liability Witness?
When I am interviewing a new client, one of the first things I do is ask about witnesses.
I often get a response such as, “Well, there was no one there to see the crash.” These people are thinking about liability witnesses.
Liability witnesses are people who can tell us something about who was at fault for the crash. These are often people who are listed in the police officer’s crash report or they might’ve been in a nearby car, on the sidewalk, or otherwise saw the crash happen. These people are important and maybe the most common kind of liability witnesses, but they’re not the only kind.
A liability witness doesn’t have to witness the crash to be helpful, though.
There are all kinds of people who might serve as liability witnesses, including passengers in your car or in the other driver’s car, who might be able to tell us something about the traffic or weather conditions at the time of the crash.
In other kinds of cases, a liability witness can tell us about the dangerous condition of the stairway that caused you to fall or the icy walkway that was never cleared.
What is a Notice Witness?
Perhaps one of the most important kinds of liability witness that most people aren’t familiar with is called a notice witness. Many kinds of injury cases require you as the injured person to prove that the wrongdoer had notice of a dangerous condition before they can be held responsible.
For instance, a notice witness can be the person who tells us that he or she complained to the landlord or property owner about a dangerous condition before you got hurt, meaning that witness put the property owner on notice. Or that person can tell us how long a condition has been present without repair.
What is a Damages Witness?
Now that we’ve covered what a liability witness is and a few examples, let’s talk about the other type of lay witness: the damages witnesses. A damages witness can tell us about how the injury affects your life.
The best damages witnesses can help us understand the important differences in your life before and after the injury.
Ideally, these are people who know you well in your community. Perhaps a coworker, someone you serve with as a volunteer, or a local shopkeeper who you see with some regularity. These are folks who don’t have a particular stake in the outcome of your case but can tell us about you from their perspective.
For instance, a damages witness might be someone you volunteer with at the local animal shelter.
He or she might tell us about how, before the injury, you loved to spend time with the animals. But since your injury, you’re unable to walk the dogs or maybe you’ve stopped volunteering altogether.
In other words, damages witnesses help prove that an injury happened and that there’s been an impact on your life from that person’s perspective.
When thinking about witnesses for your case, keep in mind that there are witnesses who help us prove who is responsible, or liability witnesses, and witnesses who help us prove the harm that was done, or damages witnesses.
Be sure to spend time with your lawyer identifying all of the possible liability witnesses and try to think creatively about the people in your life who could serve as damages witnesses. I promise you this will be time well spent.
Contact Us Today
If you want to work with experienced Vermont and New York personal injury lawyer Drew Palcsik on your injury claim, feel free to call our office or send us a message using our contact form. We serve clients at offices in Burlington and Middlebury, Vermont, and Plattsburgh, New York.