Article about Car Accident Witness Credibility

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By: Jonathan Chatfield

Most of us get behind the wheel of a vehicle every day. Whether commuting to work or school or just running errands around town, chances are you will be on the roads today.

Accidents happen. And when they do, it is always better if you have a witness. Witness credibility can have a significant impact on your claim, and today we will talk about how.

But first, let’s take a look at a little background information.

Some Important Statistics

In the year 2014, Massachusetts reported over 5 million licensed drivers out of an estimated population of roughly 6.7 million residents. A little simple math and we can calculate that nearly 75% of the people in Massachusetts spend some time on the road each and every day.  That provides an awful lot of opportunities for car accidents to occur.

Data from the Highway Division of MassDOT obtained for this article gives us a town-by-town tally of car accidents by year with data available through 2014. For that year, there were 130,233 automobile accidents.

For those wondering, the top 3 cities in Massachusetts were:

1. Worcester with 5,380

2. Springfield, with 4,139

3. Boston, with 4,023

That means, 3% of the licensed drivers in the state of Massachusetts had a car accident of some type in the year 2014.

What Does It All Mean?

You might be asking yourself why these statistics are relevant. Understanding the relative frequency illustrates the point that these accidents could happen to anybody, on any given day, and underscores the need for either having or being a credible witness.

The simple fact is, there are quite a few people involved in these accidents. And, as a result, when it comes to the police report or insurance claims, that can add up to a whole lot of “he said, she said,” In the majority of these accidents, the only witnesses are the drivers of the vehicles involved. Neither driver wants to admit they are at fault. And often both drivers believe the other to be responsible for causing the accident. As a result, Police and Insurance companies often rely on third-party witnesses to provide details on the crash; because they tend to be more objective.

What Does it Mean to be a Credible Witness

If you’ve ever been involved in a car accident yourself, you know just how quickly everything seems to happen. One minute, you’re driving along singing along with your favorite song on the radio, and then WHAM!, you’re spun out, spewing smoke from a mangled front end. Ask yourself, in this situation, how much of the accident did you see? Can you possibly know what happened? The suddenness of the situation could disorient even the most attentive of drivers. And, if you have sustained injuries, you may be less likely to provide a detailed and objective report.

Now, what about witnesses? Chances are if there were any vehicles or pedestrians close enough to see what happened, they were doing one of two things. Either they were swerving to avoid the wreck, and hence not having a good vantage point to provide details. Or, they were a pedestrian that only looked up from whatever they were doing when the noise startled them. Driver and pedestrian alike would provide a sketchy description of the accident. Still, it may be enough for the insurance company to support one of the crash victims statements. Witness Credibility is of paramount importance here.

Things that Can Affect Witness Credibility

There are quite a few caveats to being a credible witness.

Like we discussed above, if the witness was driving a vehicle, they might have been more worried about avoiding the accident, than committing to memory a detailed explanation of what occurred. In this case, the pedestrian would likely be our more credible witness.

How much of the accident they saw, can affect witness credibility. Did they see it from beginning to end? Or did they just catch it from the BANG!, that startled them.

Can the witness objectively determine how fast both vehicles were traveling? And, can you be certain the ‘witness’ observed the accident first hand and aren’t recounting what they heard from another witness?

Other factors that can play into witness credibility may be:

  • Are they a criminal, or have they ever been convicted of a crime?
  • Are they considered honest people by others that know them?
  • Do they have anything to gain by the outcome of the investigation?
  • Was the witness under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their statement?
  • If they are supposed to be wearing glasses, were they wearing them on the date of the accident?

Other Things to Examine

And, as if all of the previous potential issues affecting credibility weren’t enough, there’s good old human nature to consider. Not everyone sees the same situation the same way. We all perceive things differently.

As you can see, there are so many factors that can impact the validity of an eye witness account. And, sometimes these accounts can make all the difference in a case. Their story can either help you win if their account supports yours, or destroy your case if what they share favors the other driver.Never underestimate the importance of witness credibility. And. As always, having an Attorney experienced in these types of cases is of paramount importance when it comes to winning your case.

Safe Driving everyone!

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