The Importance of Witnesses to an Accident Settlement
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), a motor vehicle operator will generally face the possibility of an accident around every 17 years. Some of these may be simple fender-benders that are easy – to use a flexible term – to resolve. Others may involve injuries and claims for compensation that strain Florida’s laws on auto insurance, which are largely no fault, meaning if you’re injured, you must turn to your own insurance plan’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage for reimbursement.
That doesn’t always work, however, especially if medical and related expenses strain the PIP limits or if your injuries are serious enough to warrant action beyond a claim against your insurer. You may need to seek a claim—or even a personal injury lawsuit – against the other driver.
You will need to have evidence showing that the other driver is responsible. Doing that will often require more than your word and recollection of events. Also, you need the help of others who saw what happened – that is, witnesses. Witnesses can prove to be a vital element in driving home your case and assertion against whom you believe to be the at-fault driver.
If you or a loved one has been involved or injured in a car accident in or around Altamonte Springs, Florida, and you are seeking compensation for damages and injuries, contact me at the Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius P.A. for reliable legal assistance.
I have more than 25 years of experience navigating the insurance and legal systems governing auto claims. I will evaluate your situation and lead you on the best path to recovering from your losses. I serve clients throughout Central Florida, including not only Altamonte Springs but also Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Volusia, and the counties of Polk and Lake, Florida.
The Importance of Witness Testimony in Car Accidents
Settlements and jury awards for car accidents in Florida can seem straightforward on the surface. For your injuries, you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, which is designed to compensate you for your medical and related expenses. However, it can fall short, and your injuries can surpass the definition of “serious” and warrant a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
However, both that driver’s insurance company and any jury overhearing a personal injury lawsuit you bring will be obliged to weigh how much both parties shared in what happened. This is called the modified rule of comparative negligence under Florida’s standards.
Both of you will be given a percentage of the fault. This can range from zero to 100 percent. If you, as the claimant, are found to be more than 50 percent at fault, you can recover nothing, so obviously claims adjusters are going to try to pin as much blame on you as possible.
How do you overcome this hurdle and prevail? Of course, the answer is by presenting solid evidence of what happened. Your word against the other driver’s recollection of what happened can be disputed as a version of “he said/she said,” but if you can bring in witnesses with their testimony, it is beneficial.
How Effective Is Witness Testimony?
If a witness is impartial, their testimony can carry great weight. This means that a passenger in your vehicle, or a friend traveling in another car with you to the same destination, can be challenged as having a bias. But if there are witnesses in parked vehicles or on the roadside or those who watched what happened and pulled over to provide assistance, they can be assumed to be unbiased observers of what happened.
Is It Too Late to Find Witnesses?
In a car accident, you can easily get distracted by just attending to the circumstances -- for instance, asking the other driver about their insurance and contact information, or trying to calm yourself down and seek medical assistance as may be needed. You may not even realize the importance or urgency of getting bystander or witness testimony and contact information.
However, if you report the accident and police show up, they will invariably seek witness testimony. You can use the police report once it’s filed to contact these individuals and seek their assistance in verifying your chain of events, hopefully showing the other driver to be at fault. If there are roadside businesses, you can return to the scene and try to find any employees who may have witnessed what happened.
What Should I Ask Witnesses?
We can get to the bottom of what happened with a few straightforward questions, such as:
“What time did you arrive at the accident scene?”
“Where were you coming from, and where were you heading when the accident happened?”
“In your own words, can you describe in detail what you saw?”
“Did you have a clear view of the accident? How far away were you?”
“From your perspective, what were the weather and road conditions like?”
“Do you know of any other witnesses who may have more information?”
You obviously need to get their contact information and arrange for some kind of written statement or oral deposition. Also, you need to determine whether they may have some bias – perhaps they knew the other driver and pulled over to help in their defense. You really need impartial witnesses. Enlisting an experienced car accident/personal injury attorney in these efforts will no doubt help turn events positive for you.
Seek Trusted Legal Counsel
Many accidents result in ongoing injury recovery periods that exceed a simple PIP claim. In this situation, you will need to present convincing evidence of who was at fault – the other driver.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident in Central Florida, the areas surrounding and including Altamonte Springs, contact my firm, Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius P.A., for help in assembling evidence and seeking witness testimony.
I have more than two decades of experience handling car accident/personal injury claims and lawsuits. I can deal with the claims adjuster or courtroom situation to press for the best possible outcome. Avoid the DIY approach and enlist my help