Witness statements can be essential for determining liability and damage in a personal injury case. Although you are a witness in your own injury case, when you provide a statement of what occurred and the extent of your injuries, a statement by a third-party witness to the incident--someone not involved in the incident and not related to any party to the incident--this will be considered a more reliable indicator of important facts. Documenting the statement of a third-party witness early in the case will be critical to determining the viability and strength of your personal injury claim.
Contact the witness and ask for his recollection of the incident without interjecting with leading questions, such as "Wasn't the light green?" so as not to influence the statement. After you determine from the conversation that the witness statement will be helpful to you, ask if he would agree to put the statement in writing. To facilitate the matter and obtain a statement that will be useful in court, inform the witness that you will prepare the statement in written form and make arrangements for it to be notarised. The easier you make the process for the witness, the more cooperative he will be.
Prepare the statement by first including the witness's identifying information, such as full name, address and phone number. This not only gives the statement more credibility, but makes the witness available for contact by any other party involved in the proceedings. Next include a statement of facts provided by the witness regarding what she saw or heard at the time of the incident. This includes statements made by anyone involved in the incident. Avoid including anything that can be construed as emotion, e.g., how the witness feels about the incident, or conjecture, e.g., who is responsible for the causing incident. A judge, jury or arbitrator is only going to be concerned with the facts the witness can provide. Statements of emotion or conjecture may give the witness's statement the appearance of bias.
Arrange to meet with the witness and a notary public. Allow the witness to review the prepared statement and make minor corrections that can be done in his writing. Once the witness is prepared to sign the statement, the notary can instruct the witness on how to date and sign the statement. The notary can also administer any oath and notarise the statement for use in court.
- If you are represented by an attorney in your injury case, do not attempt to speak with or obtain a witness statement without your attorney's approval.
- If you only intend to use the witness statement to document the witness's memory of the incident, then a handwritten statement will suffice, but will not be admissible in court.