What to Do if You’re in a Car Accident: Find Witnesses

Events such as those that occurred on July 28, 2012, when two kids in New Jersey walked through 4-5 feet of water to rescue a woman submerged at a train underpass where there had been a flash flood.  Or three weeks later, when  a pair of sisters stuck in their car while the engine burned were saved by 30 passers-by who heard their screams and responded in spite of the size and temperature of the flames highlight the invaluable capabilities of witnesses.

As these and other stories indicate, there are people out there who are wiling to help the victims of car accidents, even at possible cost to themselves.  Happily, it isn’t often that accident witnesses must deliver a victim from a fiery furnace.  More often, witnesses help the drivers involved in traffic accidents by making sure they’re all right, calling the police, and giving their own accounts of what led to the accident to assist in the claims process later on.  Witnesses to accidents fill out statements in accordance with 41-6a-404.  Like the accident reports filled out by the drivers involved, these reports will contain the time and place of the accident, as well as the state of the roads, the actions of the drivers, and the damage as they saw it.

Both law enforcement officials and insurance companies may use the information in a witness statement, so accuracy is vital.  “A person who gives information in reports as required in this part knowing or having reason to believe that the information is false is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.” People driving by when an accident occurs may or may not stop  to see what happened; and flagging them down is probably a fool’s errand.  Unlike the drivers directly connected with the accident, they are not obliged by 41-6a-401 to pull over when they realize something has gone amiss.  However, pedestrians, bicyclists, and people in nearby buildings who may also have seen the accident can be asked to fill out reports when the police arrive.  While the positions of/nature of damage to the cars, skid marks, and other remnants of the accident may qualify as a sort of forensic evidence, much of determining fault in a car accident is a matter of one person’s word against another’s.

The more people you have whose accounts support yours, the more credibility you have and the better your chances of successfully filing a claim.  Thus, in the midst of the situation, utilize witnesses, even if they don’t rescue you. To find more guidelines on handling your accident, check out our article, “What to Do If You Are in a Car Accident.”

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