March 30, 2015 • Legal Terminology
You are involved in an accident, where you slipped and fell, suffered a significant injury, and there were couple of witnesses at the scene who saw you fall. You want to claim compensation for your injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner. Typically, your lawyer will send an investigator to interview and talk to the witnesses. More importantly, your lawyer will want to obtain a signed statement from these witnesses.
Signed Witness Statement
This means, the witnesses will have to tell the investigator what exactly they saw, what they observed, and when they saw it. The investigator will get them to sign what information they have provided. Either the witness will write out a statement or the investigator will write it out for them and get them to sign it. This is important because we have now locked that person into their testimony. It allows the witnesses to capture the information about what they observed, during and shortly after the incident happened.
When your personal injury lawsuit comes up for trial, which could be a year or two later after the incident, your lawyer will have to track down these witnesses and persuade them to come to court to testify. There is a decent chance that these witnesses may not remember what happened, and the witness statements can come very handy.
How are these Statements Used in Court?
Lawyers use witness statements in two ways. One is to refresh the witness’s memory about what they remember about the incident. Secondly, these statements are also used, when the witness is testifying in court inconsistently for whatever reason by saying something that does not parallel the comments they made when giving their statement before. They may not remember or they are testifying about what they now think is the truth.
This is when your lawyer will show them their signed witness statements. Your lawyer will tell them that two years ago, for instance, they had spoken to the investigator, and whatever they had told the investigator was written down and they had signed their statements, confirming what was told.
The witnesses might come up with excuses as to why their testimonies have changed, but that will not matter when you have their signed statements. Therefore, having a sworn witness statement is crucial for your type of accident when there is a witness available. The statement will lock the witness into their memory, into their recollection, and once they have signed the statement confirming what they observed, they will not be able to retract from what they have said, at the time of trial.
Substantiating Your Witnesses
Even if the trial takes place a few years from the time of your accident, you can be confident about your witnesses’ testimony, once you have their signed statements. If they have forgotten the details of what they saw, which is likely, when the trial is taking place after a long time has passed, your lawyer will simply jog their memory by reading out their statement in court. This will be the statement in which they signed and confirmed shortly after the incident.