Car accidents happen every day, but this time you're involved. You're busy, as usual. You're driving to work, soccer practice, or the store. In your rearview mirror, you see a red truck weaving through traffic. The driver is clearly overtaking other cars as the gap between you closes.
You shift to the right lane to let them pass you, happy to escape their reckless path as they zig-zag into the distance. Shortly after, you see the same rushed driver crash into an SUV as both vehicles careen into the shoulder. Shocked, but not surprised, you hope everyone is ok.
Like it or not, you have now become a witness to a motor vehicle accident. What you do next could significantly impact the drivers involved in the unfortunate event.
Can a Car Accident Witness Leave the Scene?
Are you legally obliged to stay at the scene of the accident?
If you did not contribute to the accident, you have no legal obligation to remain at the scene. However, your witness statement could make the difference between the victim receiving justice and compensation for their undeserved medical bills.
Technically, you can carry on to work, your child's soccer practice, or the store. This is true in Texas and Louisiana. But regardless of where you are, the right thing to do is to stop and offer help. The accident victims could be hurt, need medical care, and unable to call 911. At a minimum, calling the police to alert them of the accident could save a life.
If you have time to spare, checking in on the drivers and their passengers could be helpful and even life-saving. They may need first aid or help moving their vehicle out of oncoming traffic.
Sometimes, you may be unable to stop and offer assistance. In these cases, the best you can do is to call the police and alert them to the accident and its severity. If you can't stop and offer aid, you should avoid slowing down — rubbernecking — and creating a traffic jam. Instead, focus on safely moving past the scene without endangering yourself or other drivers.
Still wondering if a witness can get in trouble for leaving the scene of an accident?
In both Louisiana and Texas, the answer is no. You wouldn't get into legal trouble for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident if you did not contribute to it.
What Should You Do After Witnessing a Car Accident?
You witnessed a car crash and pulled over near the accident scene to help the victims.
What should you do next?
Follow these guidelines to help the people involved in the crash and avoid injury yourself:
- Keep driving until you find a safe area to park your motor vehicle. Be careful not to exit your car until you can do so safely. The last thing you want to do is to cause another accident when there are already victims in need.
- Once safely parked, call 911 to report the accident. Give the operator as much detail as possible, including the location, severity of injuries, and the number of people and cars involved.
- You may choose to approach the accident but do so carefully. It may take several minutes for emergency services to arrive. Beware of distracted drivers and stay out of the road. Also, be aware of broken glass near the accident scene.
- Determine if the victims will be alright until emergency responders arrive. If you are certified in first aid, and someone appears to need immediate emergency care, it is your choice to render assistance if you have the proper training to do so. Be careful to avoid liability by offering medical care you are untrained in, although Good Samaritan laws generally protect those who render aid with exceptions for willful actions and gross negligence.
- If the victims are conscious but in shock, try to calm them down, reassure them that help is coming, and make them comfortable.
- When the police arrive, let them take control of the scene. Once the victims are cared for, give the police your statement and contact information. Understand that the accident victim or their lawyer may call you later about your role as a witness to the accident.
Witnesses Can Be Crucial to Motor Vehicle Accident Cases
Regardless of the type of accident you witness, your perspective can be critical in many auto accident cases. As a witness, you can play a crucial role in a:
- Car accident
- Truck accident
- 18-wheeler accident
- Motorcycle accident
- Pedestrian accident
- Bicycle accident
You may be the only person who saw what really happened. Your testimony could be the difference between someone receiving the money they need for critical medical care and being burdened by crippling debt and disability.
How Can a Witness Change Your Case?
Finding a reliable witness could be the key to winning your case if you were involved in a car accident. One of the most important things you can do following your car accident is to save the contact information of any witnesses to your wreck.
Witnesses should be encouraged to stay and provide their statements to the police. This helps ensure the accuracy of the police report. When a witness officially records their statement with the police, it can significantly impact the victim's ability to secure compensation for their personal injuries and property damage. This critical information helps accurately describe to the court what transpired during the auto accident.
Witnesses Can Change a Case's Outcome
Witnesses can change the outcome of a case by providing an unbiased perspective on what happened before, during, and after a motor vehicle accident. They can provide critical testimony, including:
- The identity of the at-fault driver
- Information about the at-fault driver's liability
- Information about the at-fault driver's driving habits before the crash
Reliable vs. Unreliable Witnesses
A reliable witness statement can be crucial to your motor vehicle accident claim. Witness statements can offer critical context to help the court determine liability. Witnesses to car and truck accidents should understand the victim could call upon them to testify in court.
However, if your witness's testimony is unreliable, it could damage your case. If your witness changes their story when the other party's lawyer questions them, their testimony won't help your case.
The court may consider a witness to be unreliable when:
- They have trouble remembering details relevant to your motor vehicle accident.
- Environmental factors impacted their ability to perceive the details of the car wreck.
- They change their story during questioning.
- The opposing attorney pokes holes in their testimony.
A savvy motor vehicle accident attorney will thoroughly vet potential witnesses to ensure they will strengthen your case rather than hurt it.
Your motor vehicle accident lawyer can help you with legal and administrative duties, such as communicating with all parties involved in the crash and drafting statements. If another party attempts to shift blame to you, your car accident attorney can help protect your interests.
What Is the Role of a Witness in Resolving Your Case?
Ideally, your case won't proceed to trial. Typically, it is faster and easier for you if your lawyer can settle your case with the at-fault driver's insurance company. Unfortunately, sometimes the responsible party's insurance company will try to blame you for the motor vehicle accident. Depending on where your accident occurred, your responsibility for the accident can have different implications.
- Texas is a modified comparative negligence state where drivers are banned from recovering damages if the court finds their fault in the accident to be more than 50%.
- Louisiana is a pure comparative negligence state. In Louisiana, even if you were 99% responsible for the accident, you can still recover 1% of the damages.
- Other states follow different negligence laws, such as contributory negligence. Some states with contributory negligence laws will bar you from recovering damages if you are at all responsible for your accident.
A witness can contest the insurance company's allegations against you. Having a witness who can attest to the other party's responsibility for the accident is ideal. You and your lawyer will have stronger negotiating power when you attempt to negotiate a reasonable settlement.
If your case proceeds to court, your witness can provide valuable information to the judge/jury. Your witness's testimony could sway the court's judgment in your favor.
A Witness's Legal Obligations
A witness has several legal obligations before they take the stand. These obligations include the following:
- To declare before testimony that the witness will speak the truth
- To take an oath or sign a form agreeing to truthful testimony
- To testify when they appear before the court
These obligations are detailed in Louisiana law and Texas law.
There are various rules of civil procedure related to witnesses under both Louisiana and Texas law. These rules can range from the person's qualifications to be considered a witness due to their mental capacity or their character for untruthfulness.
Types of Witnesses
There are several types of witnesses your attorney may produce in court, including:
- A lay witness is a person who saw actions critical to your accident. Your lawyer may call a lay witness to testify that the other driver was at-fault for the car accident.
- An expert witness has special knowledge, training, or expertise in a specific area. Your attorney may call an expert witness to analyze the skid marks left on the pavement after your motor vehicle accident.
- A character witness is someone familiar with one of the parties to the case. Your lawyer may call a character witness to testify that you are an exceptionally safe driver.
Witness to a Motor Vehicle Accident
Auto accidents can sometimes be as scary to witness as they are to the parties who are actually involved in the crash. However, making yourself known to the parties involved can save them significant time, hassle, and worry. If you witness an accident, staying at the scene to give your statement to the police and your contact information to the victim can have a life-changing impact on the accident victim.
Who Qualifies as a Car Accident Witness?
Many types of people can act as a witness to your crash. You may be surprised to hear that people you know can act as a witness to your motor vehicle accident, so long as they fit the requirements.
Witnesses can include:
The main requirements are that the witness saw the accident happen, the court considers their testimony credible, and their statements provide sufficient evidence to be useful. Your attorney can help you determine the strength of your witnesses and their potential testimony.
How Can a Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer Help?
Auto accident attorneys are well-versed in various types of motor vehicle accidents, including truck, car, motorcycle, and 18-wheeler accidents. Each crash is unique. Some accidents require considerable time and effort in the courtroom and outside negotiations. Other wrecks are relatively straightforward affairs and can be concluded swiftly.
Regardless of the complexity of your motor vehicle accident, it is critical to seek legal counsel who understands your type of crash and the damages you have suffered. Securing an attorney adept at working with car accident witnesses is also essential.
Contact Morris & Dewett for Motor Vehicle Accident Legal Help
If you were hurt in an auto accident in Louisiana or Texas, the motor vehicle accident lawyers at Morris & Dewett Injury Lawyers can help. Contact us today for your free consultation.