Most people who end up being struck in a car accident find themselves so much in shock about what occurred that they don’t know what to think or do after it happens. While many motorists think to check with the other driver, pedestrian, or cyclist to see if they’re hurt or call the police to come to the accident scene to create a report, very little else passes through their minds.
Motor vehicle collisions aren’t the only type of personal injury accident that exists, though. There are medical malpractice, premises liability, and product liability ones. All of these are just like automobile collisions in that they happen unexpectedly and cause serious injuries. Witness accounts can both help and hurt an injured party’s ability to recover compensation.
If there’s one piece tip that our Stapp Law, LLC attorneys could give you, it would be to try to identify witnesses to your injury incident while at the scene where it occurred. You should take down their name and contact information. You should also ask them to stay and share what they noticed with the police if they’re summoned to the scene.
How the Pennsylvania Auto Insurance Claims Process Works
Pennsylvania subscribes to the no-fault auto insurance doctrine. This would generally mean that you would need to first recover compensation up to full policy limits if you got hurt in a car accident. This doctrine generally only allows you to file a claim with the other motorist’s insurer if your damages exceed your auto insurance limits.
The Pennsylvania consolidated statute, 42 Pa. CS § 7102, clarifies how a plaintiff’s contributory negligence doesn’t limit their ability to recover damages. However, it does specify that a plaintiff’s percentage of fault for an accident can’t surpass that of the defendant (in other words, they are 51% or higher) if they wish to recover damages by filing a claim with their insurance or pursuing litigation.
It’s important to have a solid foundation of how auto insurance works in Pennsylvania if you want to understand how a witness figures into a motor vehicle accident case.
How the Claims Process Works in Other Personal Injury Cases
It can also be important to understand how the claims or lawsuit filing process works if you suffered injuries in another type of personal injury accident.
You may be able to file a claim with a homeowner’s insurance policy for injuries that occur on their premises or at the hands of their dog, for example. Whether grocery stores, manufacturers, or medical facilities (and doctors), companies carry insurance. You can generally recover up to their policy limits if you can prove that their negligence results in you getting hurt.
The one exception to the rule described above is when government entities are the defendants. You must often meet special requirements when notifying them of your intent to file suit, and there are recovery caps applicable in those cases.
Do Witnesses Hurt or Help Personal Injury Cases?
Witnesses can adversely impact your negligence claim or bolster it, depending on what they relay they saw.
How Witnesses Can Impact Your Car Accident Case
Everyone may remember or see something different. If a motorist noted you were driving recklessly before the accident and relays that to the police, that could motivate a police officer to cite you for a moving violation (speeding). That citation, coupled with a witness’ account of how the accident unfolded as a whole, could up your at-fault percentage, pushing you over the 51% contributory negligence threshold.
If this were to happen, you would be ineligible to recover compensation from the other motorist involved in the crash—even though there’s proof that their actions contributed to its occurrence.
At the same time, witnesses can play a key role in ensuring negligent motorists are held accountable for their actions.
Take, for example, a witness who sees a motorist talking on their phone, racing, throwing an empty alcohol can out of the window, or running a red light immediately preceding an auto accident. This insight, if relayed to the police, could give them a reason to investigate those allegations further, resulting in potential criminal prosecution and paving the way for an injured motorist to establish clear liability in a potential civil case.
Almost any Williamsport personal injury lawyer would agree that liability is seldom clear. So, having witness testimony can sometimes be the key that makes or breaks a case.
Ways Witnesses Can Adversely Impact Settlements in Other Personal Injury Cases
There are various other types of personal injury cases in which witness accounts can also be a valuable tool that can dictate whether an injured plaintiff can recover damages for their losses. Some instances in which witness accounts may make a difference include:
Hospital protocol may have existed requiring surgeons to perform a time-out procedure before performing a surgery or stitching a patient up. It may be customary for similarly trained doctors in the same geographic area to confirm the patient’s identity and the body part being operated on and to mark the appropriate side of the body affected. Still, your surgeon didn’t do that.
A nurse or medical assistant may have witnessed these oversights. Although they may be resistant to share what they saw, they may feel compelled to do so if called in for a deposition, which may, in turn, be a little bit of added insight to prove medical malpractice occurred.
A public swimming pool may have claimed to have a lifeguard on duty 24/7 while, in reality, swimmers may have essentially been left to swim at their own risk. Or their records may have shown that they regularly shocked their pool or performed regular maintenance on its surround, filtering equipment, and electrical system.
All of the info may have been falsified. A worker or another insider may know that’s the case. Witness testimony like this may make all the difference when it comes to proving that the pool owner’s negligence resulted in a person’s injuries.
There’s no shortage of scenarios that can illustrate how valuable a witness can be in ensuring you are successful in filing a personal injury claim.
How an Attorney Aids You in Working With Witnesses
As suggested above, not all witness statements are beneficial to your case. A Williamsport personal injury lawyer can help you determine when it may be appropriate to procure their statement and cite them in communicating with another party’s insurer.
One must follow certain processes and procedures in securing witness accounts or testimony to avoid witness tampering allegations or other types of impropriety by a defendant. An attorney will know the best practices for securing witness statements without jeopardizing the integrity of your case.
Our Stapp Law Firm, LLC attorneys are ready to learn more about your injury incident and any potential witnesses that can attest to what happened leading up to, during, and after it. Schedule a case review with our Williamsport personal injury lawyers so that we can assess the value witnesses may have in your legal matter.
Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?