At their core, witness statements capture how each witness recalls the accident. These statements collect the facts of loss for the accident and, when done well, uncover additional information the other parties to the investigation miss or don’t ask about. Poorly-taken witness statements can cause you to miss evidence and other details critical to your client.
The impact of poorly executed witness statements opens your client to a worse case outcome because:
- Potential deep pockets can go unidentified
- You may miss details needed to disqualify or discredit witnesses
- Discrepancies between statements that may be beneficial to your client aren’t identified
- You leave yourself open to a blindside move by the defendant’s attorney
Properly collected witness statements improve your odds of a successful case and can maximize the potential benefit to your client. This is where we come in: Glucroft Investigations has the best interviewers and investigators in the country.
Getting the Statement – How You Ask Is Often as Important as What You Ask
The professionals at Glucroft Investigations approach collecting witness statements differently. We ask questions cordially, and we listen; we listen carefully to what the witness tells us and use their responses for follow-up questions. Other investigators can act like interrogators and “grill” the witness as if they are on the stand. Heavy-handed techniques may work on the TV or movie screen, but they rarely work in real life, especially outside the courtroom.
For example, a client hired us to obtain a witness statement after another investigator failed, claiming the witness was belligerent and uncooperative. We arranged to meet the witness in person and returned with a detailed statement. During our interview with the witness, she said the first investigator was very aggressive and rude, and that’s why they had previously chosen to be uncooperative. It is a perfect example of how you ask being as important as what you ask.
Another hurdle our interviewers face is that people don’t like talking, especially to strangers. We attribute a lot of this reluctance to the heavy volume of spam calls and messages we all receive. We train our staff in developing conversations naturally and non-threateningly, creating an environment conducive to the witness speaking freely about the accident.
Of course, knowing what to ask is important, and our experienced interviewers excel here, asking clarifying and follow-up questions. In one case, an insurance company was claiming that the attorney’s client was 50% liable for the accident. In an interview with our investigator, a witness revealed that they had a dashcam in their car. Hearing this, our interviewer asked additional follow-up questions and, in doing so, discovered the camera recorded the accident. The footage clearly showed the defendant as the cause of the accident, and the witness agreed to give us a copy of the file. Using the video from the dashcam, in addition to other evidence we found through our investigation, the insurance company agreed that their client was at fault and accepted 100% liability on their client’s behalf.
Every Witness Statement is Valuable, Even When It’s Unfavorable
Witness statements help document the facts of loss in the case, collecting the details of the accident in great detail. Every statement, even an unfavorable one, helps you plan and strategize your case. For example, witness statements can help an attorney make a go/no-go decision. If your client is clearly at fault, it may make sense to settle or not take the case. For example, in one of our cases we were interviewing a passenger witness in the plaintiff’s vehicle and during the interview, the passenger revealed that the plaintiff was texting at the time of the accident. This unfavorable result from the interview gave the attorney reason to decline the case, saving the attorney from investing time, money and resources.
At Glucroft Investigations, we collect and report the facts with integrity, regardless of their favorability to the client. We will never secure a witness statement with techniques that “coerce” a predetermined result. In one accident case, a client hired us to collect a witness statement from a third driver. That witness said they did not see the accident but felt the impact as a vehicle hit the back of theirs in a domino-like chain reaction. Upon receiving this witness’ statement, our client was displeased with the statement and wanted us to get the witness to change their statement to be more favorable to the client. We dropped the client at that point because our commitment is to reporting only the facts.
Why Some Witness Statements Are More Reliable Than Others
Witness statements other than those from eye-witnesses often do not help determine the facts of loss. Why? Because if the witness only heard or felt the accident, they could not know:
- The phase of the traffic signals at the time of the accident
- The actual direction of travel of the vehicles
- Details of any vehicles that fled the scene
- Who had the right of way
- The speed of the vehicles
…And other relevant, noiseless facts.
These witness statements may not be valuable in supporting your client’s position, but they may still have value. For example, suppose the defense supports their position with one of these witnesses as an “eye-witness” who we have already interviewed. In that case, our witness statements position you to discredit the witness because they did not see the accident, just the aftermath.
Determining Course and Scope of Work
One type of revealed fact can rapidly alter the value of a case. For example, if the other driver was in a company car or driving their own car as part of their employment (referred to as driving “in the course and scope” of work), the employer can become a potentially deep pocket for your case.
What are the indicators that a person was working at the time of the accident? Signage on the vehicle is one of the questions we ask. Did the vehicle have any logos or magnetic signs identifying a company? Were there tools in the vehicle, a good indicator this is a work vehicle?
In situations where there aren’t any vehicle markings, there are other ways to determine whether the defendant was driving in the course and scope of work. For example, in one case, a food delivery person illegally turned in front of our client, causing the accident. The defendant’s car had no company signage on it, but the driver had bags of food on the front seat of their vehicle. During the accident-clearing process, another car from the restaurant came by and collected the food from the driver to complete the delivery.
We used both facts to clearly establish that the accident occurred during the course and scope of work, allowing our client to add the driver’s employer as a possible defendant.
Why Choose Glucroft Investigations to Collect Your Witness Statements?
Since witness statements can make or break your case, you need an experienced, professional firm to collect them. Glucroft Investigations are specialists in accident investigations, including accident scene investigations. We have investigated over tens of thousands of accidents, including auto, motorcycle, pedestrian, workplace and more. We’re also experts at collecting witness statements in all these situations. Call us today at 866-411-8646 to talk about your case, or contact us online. At Glucroft Investigations, We Uncover The Hidden.
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to offer legal or insurance advice. For advice concerning your particular situation, please contact your appropriate legal or insurance professional.