As soon as possible after any accident or injury, get out your SettlementCentral.Com Accident Information Form. Read it so you know what information you need to gather. Take your notepad and start getting information down from people at the scene. Start with witnesses, since they are more likely to want to leave quickly.
If your case is one of absolute, clear liability, you probably don't need to contact witnesses and obtain their statements. However, if there is or might ever be even the slightest question about liability, read on and be in tough with those witnesses.
Do not intimidate witnesses by asking their mother's maiden name and Social Security number! All you need is a brief understanding of what they saw, together with their name, address and phone number. You can ask for a formal statement later. However, if they are willing, it would be best for you if they will each sign a little three-sentence paragraph telling what they saw. This will help to refresh their memory when the insurance adjuster tries to sandpaper them for a favorable statement later. We have a sample Quick Witness Note that may help you pull these together. Read it now, before you need it.
If it is not an auto accident scene or if the witnesses are willing to stick around, you can even jot down a few quick sentences of what they saw and ask them to sign it just for safeguarding. That way, you have the basis of a real witness statement for later.
What do you tell the other party or the store manager? Not much, if anything. Your best bet is to try to obtain information from them. If you can find out from the other driver that he was working around the clock or hadn't been sleeping well, that could be a big help. That way, if your injuries are severe, his employer or insurance company will be less likely to argue about liability.
If you are injured or otherwise unable to talk with witnesses, ask a friend to do this important task for you - either at the scene or as soon as possible afterward.
For more information regarding witnesses, continue to:
You can present witness information in a number of different ways. The purposes of witness statements are numerous but, basically, they support either your version of liability or your assessment of damages.
You can mention what the witness would say in your conversation or letter to the insurance adjuster giving him the name or contact information for the witness for follow-up purposes. You can prepare a quick handwritten note for the witness to sign and either cite that for the insurance adjuster or photocopy it and present it with your claim.
You can speak with the witness and prepare a letter for her to sign that will be included with your demand package. You can prepare a formal declaration or certified statement, made under penalty of perjury of the laws of your state, with a caption format (even if you are not in litigation) and include that with your materials as something that carries the same weight as actual testimony.
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