When you have information pertinent to a civil or criminal lawsuit or an event like a car accident, you may be asked to write a statement or report. Writing an accurate witness report is an important responsibility. Follow these steps to write a clear, concise witness report.
Compose your thoughts before you begin writing your formal statement. Create a time line on a separate sheet of paper listing each incident you witnessed. Making a time line helps organise your thoughts chronologically so your report can be easily understood by others.
Check your calendar to be sure you are correct as to the dates on which any incident on your time line occurred. Look at your watch or a wall clock with a second hand as you replay a quick incident like a car crash in your mind, to ensure that you are as accurate as you can be regarding timing. Rearrange the entries on your time line until they are accurate.
Jot down who was present at each incident entered on your time line, and what each person was doing, then include where you were at the time of each entry. Think carefully about what you actually saw, heard, or felt as opposed to what someone else might have told you about the incident or what you might have presumed happened. Include only your own personal observations in your witness report.
On your Witness Statement Form, write your full legal name, your permanent address and any temporary local address, other contact information such as a telephone number or e-mail address, the date, time and location at which you are writing the report, and the name of any person who has asked you to write the report. Note any special qualifications you may have (such as whether you are a doctor, law enforcement official, or other specialist) if they are pertinent to the report.
Note your relationship to the incident, including whether you were involved or were a disinterested bystander. Transpose the entries from your time line into full sentences, relating your observations of the events in chronological order. Sign and date the statement, following any special procedures that the Witness Statement Form indicates, such as having a witness or notary to your signature.
If English is not your primary language, request a trained interpreter before making a witness statement, or request to make the witness report in your primary language so that you are not misunderstood. Make a photocopy of your witness report before you give the original to the person requesting it, in case a question arises later as to what you originally wrote. If a law enforcement officer or other legal personnel write your witness report for you, read it over extremely carefully before you sign it, and be sure to insist on making any changes necessary to ensure the witness report you sign accurately reflects your statements. Witness statement forms for accidents may request that you draw a map. Draw a draft of the map first on a separate piece of graph paper, then copy it over onto the witness statement form. You can number key locations on the map and then insert the numbers into corresponding areas of your written report. Take your time and make sure your witness report accurately reflects your observations of the events.
Never give false information on a witness report; false reports can constitute a crime and will create delays in resolving the incident. Seek an attorney's advice before providing a witness report if any part of that report might implicate you in a crime or imply that you share civil liability for whatever occurred. You may be called to testify at a deposition, hearing or trial after you give your witness report. Seek a local attorney's advice before testifying at any legal proceeding.