When you’ve been in a car accident, who is at fault could be difficult to determine. There may be a lot of disagreement among the parties involved in the crash. Having solid evidence, including witness testimony, is critical to convincing an insurance company or trial jury of your arguments.
You and your car accident attorney will speak to anyone who saw the wreck and use their statements to your advantage. However, if you had people in the vehicle with you, you may wonder whether a passenger can be a witness in a car accident. It depends on their credibility, character, and consistency.
First-Person vs. Third-Person Witnesses in a Car Accident
Auto insurance adjusters will want to know if anyone saw what happened and can back up your claims for injuries and damage. If you had passengers with you at the time, you would naturally want them to speak on your behalf. However, just because someone was in the same car doesn’t mean they saw the same things or that their recollection can be trusted.
There are two kinds of witnesses in car accidents: first-person and third-person. A first-person witness is anyone who was directly involved in the crash and has a stake in the outcome of the claim. A third-person witness is someone who saw or heard the accident but doesn’t have a financial interest in how the case turns out.
Depending on who they are, your passenger could be either first-person or third-person. This difference can affect their credibility since they may clearly be biased to help you out. Your attorney can help you and your witness with their testimony so it is fair and accurate.
Factors Affecting a Passenger’s Credibility as a Witness
Whether a witness’ testimony can be trusted comes down to how credible they are. Insurance adjusters and juries will examine their viewpoints of the accident. They will also consider the passenger’s character and the consistency of their statements as indicators of their credibility.
Your passenger’s perception and location for the crash may have been very similar to your own. However, passengers aren’t always watching the road the way a driver does. You and your car accident lawyer should ask your passenger several questions, such as:
- Did you see the crash from beginning to end, or were you distracted by reading, sleeping, or sightseeing?
- Did you see anything different from what the driver did, such as other oncoming cars, lane changes, or objects on the road?
- Do you have any medical condition that affects your memory, causes confusion, or makes you disoriented?
- If you wear aids for your sight or hearing, did you have them on at the time?
- Were you hurt or traumatized during the accident?
- Where were you sitting in the car, and was your view obstructed in any way?
- Were you under the influence of any drugs or alcohol at the time?
Questions Your Lawyer May Ask
Your passenger’s character will be questioned. It will be essential to establish them as someone who can be trusted to tell the truth, no matter the situation. Your lawyer will likely interview the witness to get answers to questions such as:
- Do you have a financial interest in how this claim is settled?
- What is your relationship with the driver?
- Are you involved in a separate claim as a passenger against the other driver?
- Do you have any past convictions for any crimes?
- Is there any history of dishonest actions?
Finally, your passenger should tell the same version of the accident every time they are asked. If they change details or claim to suddenly remember something that seems suspicious, these will likely cause the investigators to ask even more questions. If the inconsistencies are critical enough, your passenger’s testimony could be disregarded completely.
As you may expect, young children are not considered credible witnesses. In addition, if the passenger was sleeping, distracted by their cell phone, or sitting in an obstructed location such as the third row of an SUV, their recollection may be called into question. Insurance adjusters will typically reject their statements as inconsequential or unreliable.
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Using Your Passenger as a Witness Can Be Complicated
Because your passengers are usually family members or friends, there is already a strike against them for insurers to believe their statements will be neutral. Insurance adjusters are eager to write off your passenger’s words as too biased to be trusted. This is a common tactic to reduce or deny your settlement offer, and a skilled car accident attorney will push back.
When you are trying to negotiate an insurance claim, it can be challenging enough to convince the representatives that you are being honest. They are interested in keeping their profits, not paying out settlements, so they are quick to suspect fraud. Being prepared for their questions by already knowing the answers allows you and your lawyer to put their concerns to rest.
A good first step is to begin by hiring an attorney before you start to work with the insurance provider. Your lawyer can advise you on what to say, whether your passenger is a viable witness, and when it is time to consider filing legal action to settle your claim. They will also gather additional relevant evidence and assemble a strategy tailored to your circumstances.
Consult with the Strong Arm of Georgia to Be Sure
In the end, it’s up to you and your attorney to decide whether a passenger’s testimony is valuable to your case. Having a trusted legal advocate who has experience in claims like yours can guide you in choosing if it helps or hurts your side.
If you are unsure whether your passenger can be a witness in your car accident, don’t wait any longer to get your questions answered. Contact John Foy & Associates to schedule a free initial consultation so we can discuss your options. With the Strong Arm of Georgia on your side, you have the best chance of securing the compensation and justice you deserve.
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