Author: Chris Cloude
You are driving to the grocery store taking your time and following your normal route. As you approach an intersection, the stoplight is green and you proceed into the intersection. Out of the corner of your eye you see a flash, and your car is hit on the passenger side.
A few days later, an adjuster calls you from the insurance company for the person that hit you. The adjuster informs you that the insurance company is denying your claim from your auto accident because their insured says they had the green light, not you.
This story is one we hear almost every day. Without other witnesses, often there is not much that can be done to make a recovery. If the insurance company won’t discuss settlement, the only option is to file suit and go to court. At court, the injured person has the burden of proof. That means the injured person has the burden to prove the other driver is at fault. If it’s just your word against the other driver, that’s usually not enough. There needs to be evidence to prove you had the green light. Even if the investigating officer charges the other driver, that’s not enough to prove your case in civil court. The best way to prove your light was green is through the testimony of a witness.
If you are involved in an accident, you should ask the people who stop for their names and contact information. Even if they didn’t see what happened, they may remember facts that would should you are being truthful about what happened and the other driver is not. Usually witnesses will have more information than just the actual crash facts. That information can support your credibility and undermine the other driver’s credibility.
Of course, to have the testimony of a witness, you must be able to contact the witness. It is important to secure the names, phone numbers and addresses of the witnesses at the scene. Ask the investigating officer if he or she obtained the names and contact information of everyone who was present at the scene, but don’t just rely on the officer. If you can, or if someone else at the scene with you can, then get the information directly. Many times the police officer is so involved in getting medical attention for anyone who is injured, obtaining the information of the people involved in the accident, and avoiding another accident from occurring while all this is going on, that the officer does not get names and contact information for everyone at the scene.
The officer’s first responsibility at the scene of an accident is to attend to the people involved who are injured, and then to assure safety of the scene for other motorists. If you are first to a scene, those should be your priorities also. But if those responsibilities are being taken care of by others, then you can help by getting witness information.
You should obtain the names and contact information of people present at the scene, especially eyewitnesses to the crash, and give that information to the police officer and to persons involved in the crash. That information could mean the difference between whether an injured person is or is not able to recover for injuries and losses caused by someone else, and that difference can mean a lot to someone in that situation. Sometimes all we’ve gotten was the license plate number of a vehicle at the scene, but with some investigation we’ve been able to locate a witness who made all the difference in the case.
About the Author: Chris Cloude is a claims consultant in the Fredericksburg, Virginia branch of the personal injury law firm Allen & Allen. A former insurance adjuster, Chris works under the supervision of Attorney Edward Allen to assist clients in settling their personal injury claims.