The Importance of Witnesses to an Accident Settlement
In 2022, there were 302 deadly car accidents in Houston, resulting in 317 fatalities. The toll across Harris County was 537 fatal crashes, resulting in 560 deaths. Accidents occur daily throughout Texas, resulting in property damage, injuries to drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and fatalities. It is vital to get the legal assistance you need after an accident; that way, you can focus on recovery.
Texas is an at-fault auto insurance state, so the driver who caused the accident is generally liable for any injuries or property damage they cause. This is done through a claim with that person’s auto insurance policy, but it is also possible to file a personal injury lawsuit or a property damage lawsuit.
Filing an insurance claim may seem easy – the other driver was clearly at fault – but each insurance company relies on a team of professionally trained claims adjusters. Claims adjusters have one role: to protect the parent company’s bottom line. They do this through a variety of techniques in questioning – you can even call them tricks – to pin as much blame as possible on you to lower or even deny your settlement.
One way to strengthen your case and prevail in your claims is to gather witness testimony from those on the scene of the accident, whether bystanders or other drivers who stopped to help. You can sometimes even collect witness testimony after the accident by sourcing police records and walking the neighborhood to see if anyone in a store or other business saw anything.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident in or around Houston, Texas, and need to pursue all avenues to obtain the best settlement possible, contact us at Ellis & Thomas, PLLC. We are car accident and personal injury attorneys who can help you assemble the supporting evidence you need and negotiate with the insurance company. We know how claims adjusters operate and can stand up to their techniques to fight for an optimal settlement.
In addition to Houston, we proudly serve clients throughout the counties of Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery, and Brazoria, Texas.
How Can Witness Testimony Help My Settlement?
When it comes to a claim involving a car accident, it’s your word against the other drivers, whom you believe to be at fault. The other driver can try to pin the blame, partially, or fully on you under Texas’s use of the standard of modified comparative negligence. If the other driver can show you were more than 50 percent at fault, you cannot collect.
How Effective Is Witness Testimony?
If you can find unbiased witnesses who can describe the accident as it occurred, that can support your case immensely. The witness cannot be your family or friends who may have been riding with you or tailing you in another car. Their testimony will be subject to being attacked as being biased.
Your best source is unbiased bystanders. These individuals may have been standing on the roadside or working inside a roadside business. They must have witnessed the accident from start to finish and not just the end result when two cars are sitting on the road and people are getting out of their vehicles.
These witnesses may also be those traveling behind you who saw what happened and pulled over to help. Again, for utmost credibility, they must have witnessed the totality of the accident and be able to describe everything factually as they remember it, not through conjecture or filling in the blanks.
Is It Too Late to Find Witnesses?
Texas law requires that you report to the police any accident that results in serious injury, death, or property damage totaling $1,000 or more, but if anyone is injured, you can always can 911. Police should come, investigate and file a report. When it is available, you can request a copy of the report. If it identifies witnesses, you can follow up to get their statements.
Another method is to search 911 records. Perhaps someone at the scene or even in another vehicle called 911. You can then reference that call to try to locate the witness.
What Should You Ask the Witnesses?
You don’t want to be too aggressive or too dramatic in approaching witnesses. They may react by feeling threatened or uncomfortable and refuse or be hesitant to cooperate with you. Be as calm and unemotional as possible, and ask each witness to describe exactly what they saw from start to finish. Did they see important details, such as the other driving speeding or running a red light?
You can ask the witness to make a recording on your phone or let you make a video as they make their statement. You can also request that they write it down, but you’ll have to follow up and get a copy, which may prove difficult. Overall, of course, you need their name and contact information.
Seek Trusted Legal Counsel
In any accident involving injuries to you or a loved one, you should, of course, file an insurance claim, but you should also seek the help and guidance of an experienced car accident/personal injury attorney. Your attorney can help you assemble the evidence you need to press your claim.
This evidence should include any witness testimony you were able to obtain. Let your attorney negotiate with the insurer and their claims adjuster and answer their questions regarding the accident.
Contact us at Ellis & Thomas, PLLC, in Houston, Texas, if you are involved in a car accident that results in injuries to you or your passengers. We’ll take over the settlement process to obtain the best possible result.