Our personal injury attorneys reveal the 4 steps to take immediately after a car accident, the importance of witness statements, key questions to ask eyewitnesses at the scene of the accident, and our top 4 tips for ensuring the best interaction with witnesses to your accident.
Car accidents can be traumatic events, both physically and emotionally distressing. After an accident, you may feel disoriented, hurt, scared, and upset. However, there are certain steps you need to take in the immediate aftermath if you find yourself the victim of a car crash.
The first steps are to call 911, file a police report, and gather the other driver’s information. It’s essential to gather accurate information at the scene of an accident to establish liability and ensure you are fairly compensated for the physical and emotional damage you have incurred.
But beyond the initial steps to take immediately after the accident occurred, it’s also helpful to gather witness statements. A witness may have seen things when the accident happened that will help your car accident case.
Witnesses may help prove who was at fault, and a personal injury lawyer can help gather witness statements that will support your claim.
If you or anyone involved in the accident needs an ambulance or immediate medical attention, call 911.
A police report is an unbiased, third-party statement about the details of a car accident. An investigating officer writes the police report in response to a request for assistance at a car accident spot. It contains a summary of information regarding the crash and the opinions of the investigating officer. It is also legally required in the state of Louisiana, according to Louisiana legislation RS 32:398.
This law states that a car accident must be reported as quickly as possible to the local police station if the incident involves injury, death, or $500 or more in property damage to either vehicle.
The police report is an important piece of evidence in a settlement claim. Filing a police report after an accident is painless, easy, and will protect you from insurance fraud while also helping to ensure you are fully compensated for injuries and property damage by your insurance company or the at-fault driver.
Once you call the police, they will arrive at the scene and take statements from the drivers of the vehicles, the passengers of the vehicles involved, and witnesses. For your records, write down the name and badge number of the police officers.
The police report will be used by both your personal injury attorney, like our team at Breaux Law Firm, and the insurance adjusters to determine fault.
Never let another driver convince you to avoid calling the police. They may be afraid of legal repercussions, especially if they don’t have insurance or they are impaired by drugs or alcohol. But it is your legal obligation to report the accident—and doing so will help you out immensely when you seek compensation.
Take a picture of the accident scene, with vehicles in their exact positions after the collision. Do not move the vehicles! If the accident site is blocking traffic, turn on your hazard lights and wait for the police to arrive to redirect traffic.
As Breaux Law Firm discussed in our in-depth article, “What Pictures Should I Take After an Accident?,” walk around each vehicle and take close-up photos of all the vehicles that were involved. From a further distance, take photos of the surrounding context, including any other physical elements that were a part of the accident, such as guardrails, trees, lampposts, etc.
Take photos from as many angles as possible, inside and outside the cars, as well as nearby buildings, which may have security cameras that captured the accident on video. Getting some contextual photos for the accident can also help your personal injury lawyer locate witnesses.
If you are too injured and can’t take photographs of the car wreck, see if a bystander, witness, or another passenger in your vehicle can take photos for you.
While you wait for the police to arrive, gather the following information from the other driver:
Breaux Law Firm can then use this information to begin your claim. If the other driver flees the scene of the crime, the most important piece of information you can gather is their license plate number, which can be used to track the perpetrator.
Do not make any agreements about payments or fault with the other driver. Be respectful and polite, but do not apologize, which can be taken as admitting guilt.
You should also speak to any other parties involved in the accident to gather their information, as well as bystanders. This is where eyewitnesses come in! Was there anyone at the scene of the accident who is a credible witness?
Eyewitnesses are a valuable source of information that can often be overlooked. People who were witness to a car accident are likely to provide crucial details that may not be immediately apparent to the involved parties.
Eyewitnesses play a pivotal role in reconstructing the events leading up to and following an accident. Their unbiased and firsthand accounts can provide insight into critical factors such as the sequence of events, the actions of each driver, road and weather conditions, and even the demeanor of those involved.
This information can greatly assist insurance companies, law enforcement, and legal professionals in determining fault and assessing damages.
When approaching witnesses, it’s important to be respectful and considerate. Having witnessed an accident, they may feel traumatized or afraid to get involved. Your demeanor could persuade them to share their information and account with you. Questions to consider asking a witnesses include:
Ensure you have a way to reach the witness later for further clarification or testimony if necessary. Ask the witness for their full name, phone number, email address, and address. Be sure to ask each witness for their contact information.
Ask if the witness saw the accident happen, was present from the beginning of the incident. or arrived after the accident took place. If possible, perhaps the witness help you identify the exact time of the accident.
Ask where the witness was positioned when they saw the accident unfold. This will help reconstruct the scene accurately.
Inquire about the actions of both drivers leading up to the collision. This could include speeding, erratic lane changes, or other unsafe driving behavior.
This question is crucial for understanding whether the other driver committed a traffic violation or disregarded road rules.
Weather conditions can significantly impact road safety. A wet or icy road, for example, can contribute to accidents even if the drivers are being cautious.
Noise can often provide additional context, such as the screeching of tires or the sound of a collision.
Passengers may offer insights into the behavior of the drivers and the events leading up to the accident.
Emotional reactions can provide clues about the severity of the impact and the potential extent of injuries.
They may have noticed other people in the vicinity who were witnesses to the accident and could share what they saw.
Ask if the witness is open to sharing their account with the relevant parties, and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities in this regard.
When speaking to anyone involved in the collision, always do your best to remain neutral and respectful. Do not apologize, make statements that could be construed as accepting fault, engage in an argument about what happened, or admit to any wrongdoing.
Approach witnesses politely and calmly. Remember, they also may be shaken by the accident. Politely ask if they are willing to give a witness statement or share information about the accident with you.
Take notes or use your phone to record the witness’s responses. This will help you remember the details accurately later.
Respect the witness’s time and emotions. If they are uncomfortable, unwilling to provide information, or your questions get no response, don’t push them. Ask for contact information only, in the hope that they might change their mind about sharing what they saw. Your personal injury attorney may also be able to get the witnesses to open more in the future about the facts of the accident.
After the conversation, thank the witness for their assistance and provide them with your contact information in case they have further information to share. Ask if you may contact them with any follow-up questions.
Gathering information from eyewitnesses can significantly impact the outcome of a car accident claim. Their unbiased accounts can shed light on the events leading up to and following the collision, helping to establish fault and ensure fair compensation for your past and future damages.
By asking the right questions and treating witnesses with respect, you can harness their valuable insights to build a stronger case.
One of the most important things to remember in the aftermath of an accident is that you don’t have to handle everything on your own.
Hiring an accident injury attorney can be a crucial step to your full and fair recovery. If you have the contact information of eyewitnesses and you are working with a personal injury attorney like our team at Breaux Law Firm, your attorney can reach out to the witness to gather information for your case.
If you were injured in a car accident, you don’t have to go it alone. Breaux Law Firm is here to assist you in navigating the complexities of car accident claims and seeking the justice you deserve.
Knowing how to decide what questions to ask a witness after a motor vehicle accident can be hard. Your accident attorney can do the hard part for you!
Being in a car accident is frightening, and getting back on your feet should be as easy as possible. The expert personal injury attorneys at Breaux Law Firm have decades of experience handling car accident cases and winning compensation for thousands of accident victims in New Orleans and Louisiana.
We’re here to help you and to provide personal attention for personal injuries. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.