When you file a personal injury claim and you believe that someone has key information that will help your case, you can ask that person to sign an affidavit. Affidavits are documents that contain statements that are sworn to be true. The person who gives the affidavit, known as the “affiant,” takes an oath that the statements are accurate before signing.
Signing an affidavit is a formal process. Generally, the wording of the affidavit will be based closely on statements the affiant makes to your lawyer, so that they will feel confident signing the finished product. The document must then be signed in front of a notary public. The affiant swears their oath and signs the affidavit and the notary public notarizes that they witnessed this signing. Affidavits can include facts the affiant knows are true, or they can contain a version of events the affiant believes to be true—such as what they think they saw at an accident scene in a car accident or truck accident case.
Affidavits are useful tools, but they are not considered as strong as sworn testimony, such as that given during trial or in a deposition during discovery. The advantage of testimony is that attorneys on both sides get to examine the witness and ask questions, and the questions are subject to rules that the judge can enforce. Since an affidavit is simply a signed document, neither side can ask questions or clarify what it says.
Because of this, affidavits are not used in trial unless absolutely necessary. They are typically used during pre-trial proceedings, as a way to show what a witness will likely say in court if the case proceeds to trial. This allows both sides to quickly evaluate the evidence without a formal deposition process.
Sometimes, such as when a witness is no longer available, an affidavit will be used in trial—but it may be challenged by the other side.
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