Witnesses can make the difference between winning and losing a claim involving a truck collision. In many cases, the sole witnesses to the incident are the drivers of the vehicles involved.
Since each driver has an interest in the outcome of the claims process, it comes down to the word of one driver against the other. Therefore, the testimony of both may not do much in determining the true cause of the crash. This is where the presence of third party witnesses is crucial.
Here are some of the most important things you need to know regarding the role of truck accident third party witnesses.
1. Importance of Third Party Witnesses
When you or your truck accident attorney submit a claim to the insurance company, the insurance adjuster will want to know whether there were any witnesses, besides the drivers. The adjuster recognizes that each driver will often have their own biased version of events. This becomes apparent when there are conflicts or discrepancies between each driver’s account of what happened.
The adjuster will usually decide which is the correct narration of events based on what account has the support of one or more third party witnesses.
2. Witnesses Prioritize Personal Safety Considerations
The people witnessing an accident are typically not actively attempting to take a mental inventory of the moment. This includes not adequately capturing vehicle movement and placement for future reference. They were, after all, not expecting it.
Instead, once they realize a truck accident is going to happen, the witness may be more concerned with their own safety and avoiding getting caught up in the collision. This is especially so for individuals driving in close proximity to the accident.
Events move fast during a crash and everything could happen within a fraction of a second. A third party may have to first focus on the split-second reaction that will ensure their own personal safety. It is only when the crash is over that the witness attempts to recollect what they observed.
3. Factors Affecting Witness Credibility
Credibility comes down to dozens of factors that can be placed into three major categories:
Witness Location and Viewpoint
The questions that gauge witness location and viewpoint include the following:
- Was the witness driving and thus more focused on not getting caught up in the crash?
- Was the witness a pedestrian walking nearby, but at a distance safe enough to watch the events unfold?
- Did the witness watch the crash from beginning to end, or was their attention only drawn to the incident when they heard the sound of the impact?
- Did the witness observe the truck for a period of time that is sufficient to determine if it was speeding or not?
- Was the witness distracted by someone or something they were attending to, such as a crying baby or walking the dog?
- Does the witness’s account only include their personal observations, or are they also relying on the observations of someone else at the scene?
- Does the witness have a criminal history?
- Does the witness have a past record of dishonest action or testimony?
- Does the witness have a vested interest in the claim’s outcome? Are they a relative or friend of one of the drivers? Were they a passenger in one of the vehicles involved?
Witness Physical Condition
- Does the witness have poor hearing or eyesight? If they have poor eyesight, were they wearing corrective lenses or prescribed glasses?
- Was the witness under any intoxication at the time of the crash? This does not only relate to alcohol or narcotics, but any prescribed medication that could impair their senses.
- Does the witness have problems remembering things? Have they been diagnosed with a memory-impairing condition such as dementia?
- Does the witness get easily confused or overwhelmed?
4. Credibility Is Not Synonymous With Honesty
An important point to make is that witness credibility is not the same as witness honesty. There may be a conflicting version of events because two or more third party witnesses observed the accident differently.
For instance, while one witness may describe a truck as speeding, another person may conclude the vehicle was within the speed limit. Neither individual is necessarily lying. It just means people may have different opinions and come to different conclusions while watching the same event.
Accuracy and Speed is Key
We have shown that multiple factors affect witness credibility. Therefore, when presenting your truck accident claim, do not be content with simply providing contacts of the witnesses supporting your version of events. Rather, identify those who demonstrate high reliability and credibility. When witnesses lack credibility, their testimony will not add value to your accident claim and may even hinder it.
Human memory is inherently flawed. Witness statements are best taken as soon after the crash as possible. Over time, not only does the recollection of the event start to fade away, but bias starts to creep in. Witnesses may begin to incorporate information from other sources into their original story.
Keep these considerations in mind if you ever have to gather witness statements in a truck accident claim.