Every case has multitudes of unique pieces of evidence, including witnesses. Witness statements can sometimes make or break a case, and certain kinds of witnesses can be very beneficial.
Depending on how and where your car accident occurred, there might be various possible witnesses, including eyewitnesses, expert witnesses, and others. Not all witnesses need to have watched your accident happen to have valuable first-hand knowledge pertaining to your case. Getting witness statements might be difficult. Tracking down these witnesses is already going to be a challenge. Once tracked down, some witnesses are reluctant to get involved. You should exchange contact information with anyone present during your accident, as they might make for good witnesses later. Not all witness statements can be used. If a witness’ statements are irrelevant, overly inflammatory, or based on second-hand information, they might not be useful to your case.
Get in touch with our Chicago car accident lawyers at the Rhatigan Law Offices to schedule a free case review by calling (312) 578-8502.
What Kind of Witnesses Statements Are Important to Your Illinois Car Accident Claim?
Witnesses are sometimes lumped together into one group, but there are many different kinds of witnesses whose testimony will vary. Some witnesses are valuable to your case because they saw your car accident unfold right in front of them. Others did not see the accident but have personal knowledge about something important to the case.
Eyewitnesses are people whose knowledge of your case stems from the fact that they watched the accident unfold. In car accident cases, eyewitnesses often include other drivers or passengers in other vehicles, pedestrians, bike riders, and anyone else who might have had the accident in their sights.
Depending on how much they saw, eyewitnesses can be incredibly important. For example, injured plaintiffs often only see what is going on in front of them. In a rear-ending accident, the plaintiff might not have seen the defendant’s car coming. An eyewitness, however, might have seen the defendant’s car approaching from behind. They might be able to testify about the defendant’s speed, whether the defendant was distracted, if the defendant ran a red light, and other things they saw first-hand.
Multiple eyewitnesses might provide details from various vantage points. With multiple eyewitnesses providing statements, our Lincoln Park car accident lawyers can paint a clearer and more accurate picture of how your accident happened and why the defendant should be held liable.
An expert witness often has nothing to do with your accident. Instead, expert witnesses are people with scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge that is beyond the skills or experience of the average person. Experts may testify or give statements about a technical or scientific aspect of your car accident.
For example, accident reconstruction experts are relatively common in car accident cases. They are trained to use evidence from your accident (e.g., speed, tire marks, vehicle damage) to recreate how it happened. Their testimony may be extremely important in proving the defendant was responsible for the crash.
Many witnesses fall into a broader category of general witnesses who are not eyewitnesses. Remember, a witness does not necessarily have to watch an accident happen to have some first-hand knowledge relevant to the case.
For example, perhaps we suspect the accident happened because the defendant was intoxicated. If we know they came from a bar before the accident, we can ask the bartender that served them to testify about how much the defendant drank. While this information is not directly related to the crash, it is related to the defendant’s state before the crash.
When Witness Statements Are Not Allowed in Court for a Car Accident Claim in Illinois
Even if we have multiple witnesses prepared to give statements, only some of their statements might be permitted in court. The Illinois Rules of Evidence provide rules and regulations for how and when certain kinds of evidence may be admitted in court. We must make sure that any witness statements or testimony adhere to these rules.
One of the most important rules of evidence regarding witness statements and testimony is the rule against hearsay. Rule 801 of the Illinois Rules of Evidence defines hearsay as a statement made by someone other than the testifying witness repeating it, and the statement is being offered to prove the truth of the issue in question.
A common example would be information heard through the grapevine. If a witness stated that they know the defendant caused the accident because their friend who saw the accident said so, the witness’ statements would be inadmissible hearsay.
Although hearsay is a big evidentiary rule, it is not without exceptions. Hearsay statements might be admissible under very specific circumstances. For example, statements made as part of a medical diagnosis, about someone’s character or reputation, and or from former official testimony may be admissible even if they constitute hearsay.
Another important rule for witness statements, and all other evidence, is relevancy. To keep legal proceedings as simple and efficient as possible, only relevant evidence may be admitted in court. Relevancy is defined under Rule 401 as evidence with any tendency to prove one way or the other the existence of a fact important to a case. Essentially, if witness testimony does not serve to prove or disprove a fact in your case, it is not relevant.
The Rules of Evidence protect both parties from unfair evidence, including the defendant. According to Rule 403, evidence that is relevant to your case but might unfairly mislead or confuse the jury might be inadmissible. Evidence might also be prejudicial if it is relevant but unnecessary or wastes too much time.
It is important to evaluate witness statements for their prejudicial value. For example, in an accident case where the defendant was drunk, evidence regarding the defendant’s drinking on the day of the accident would be relevant and important. However, evidence that leads the jury to believe the defendant is a hopeless drunk would be unfairly prejudicial. The jury does not necessarily need to believe the defendant is a hopeless drunk to find them liable.
Speak to Our Illinois Car Accident Lawyers About Your Claims
Get in touch with our Illinois personal injury lawyers at the Rhatigan Law Offices to schedule a free case review by calling (312) 578-8502.