Why witness statements are essential in a personal injury claim
Coodes Solicitors’ paralegal Toby Szczur explains why witness statements are crucial if you want to claim personal injury compensation.
If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, you may be entitled to compensation. Perhaps you have suffered an injury at work, for example, or are recovering from a road traffic accident. Whatever the nature of the accident and the injuries you sustain, if you want to pursue a personal injury claim you will need statements from witnesses.
The best way to ensure you get witness statements is to make contact with anyone who may have seen the events unfold before you leave the scene of the accident. While this is not always possible, especially if your injuries are very serious, it will give you the best chance of securing statements from witnesses.
Vital evidence in a personal injury claim
Personal injury claims are evidence driven. That means, unfortunately, that you will not have a case if you do not have any evidence to back up your claim. Witnesses to an accident are often the only source of evidence in a personal injury claim.
A witness is someone who saw what happened but was not directly involved in the accident. The key to a successful personal injury claim is establishing facts. For those facts that are hard to prove, statements from witnesses are essential.
A witness statement can help in two key ways:
- To clarify what happened and how events unfolded
- To demonstrate the impact of the accident on the individual
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Who can be a witness?
In a personal injury claim, there are two types of witnesses:
- An independent witness, who saw the accident but does not know you or anyone else directly involved.
- A witness who was present and has a direct connection to the events. For example, they could be the passenger in a car that was involved in a collision. They could also be a family member who can provide evidence about the ongoing impact of the accident on your wellbeing.
Tracking down witnesses
When you have an accident, asking for witnesses is likely to be the last thing on your mind. However, taking names and contact details for people on the scene could make all the difference to your case. Your personal injury lawyer will then be able to contact witnesses to gather the evidence that is needed to support your claim.
If you have not been able to provide any witnesses’ contact details, it will be difficult – and potentially impossible – for your lawyer to do this.
Without contact details, your personal injury lawyer may be unable to track down anyone who witnessed the accident. Carrying out a search for witnesses is a time consuming and costly exercise that may not yield any results. It will simply not be worth it for anything other than a very high value claim.
For example, we are currently trying to find a driver whose vehicle was captured on CCTV and who we believe could be a vital witness in a claim. However, tracking down the owner of the vehicle is proving to be a lengthy process and, of course, there is no guarantee the driver will agree to be a witness.
Getting a witness statement
Your lawyer will work with each witness to secure a witness statement, which is simply a factual account of what they saw. Although many personal injury claims are settled out of court, the witness may later be called to court to give evidence.
While someone may agree to be a witness, they may not share your sense of urgency around the case. Your lawyer may therefore need to contact them several times in order to secure a statement. If you know any of the witnesses – for example, a colleague who was there when you had an accident at work – then you can help. You can keep in touch with them and encourage them to work with your lawyer.
Sadly, many claims never get off the ground because there is simply not enough evidence. Getting contact details for any witnesses to your accident gives you the best chance of securing the compensation you need to get your life back on track.