How to Question a Car Accident Witness

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Questioning a witness to a car accident can add critical evidence to your insurance claim or legal action.  As you attempt to recreate the crash by providing details, obtaining a statement from a witness can help you establish what happened and who was at fault for the car accident.  Knowing what questions to ask a car accident witness in order to ensure you obtain the right information is important, and you should prepare yourself before speaking with one. 

TIP:  If you have hire an attorney, make sure you provide her with information about witnesses to your car accident.  If you have already spoken with the witness, give your attorney the details of your conversation.

What to Ask a Car Accident Witness

A witness to your car accident should be able to provide you with key details that you could not have seen from your point of view, so make sure you ask the right questions to get all the important information.  While each car accident may require different questions, you should always ask:

  • Where was your witness standing?
  • How long had they been on the scene?
  • Where were they coming from and where were they headed at the time the accident happened?
  • When did the witness notice the accident – before, during, or after the collision?
  • Did the witness have a clear view throughout the accident, or was it obstructed at any point?  If it was, what did they see immediately before and after their view was obstructed?
  • How far away from key events related to the accident was the witness?  For example, if the accident was caused by a child running into the road, was the witness close to the child or where the child an into the street?
  • What did the witness see?  Have them describe the accident.

Depending on the nature of your car accident, you may need to ask additional questions beyond the basics.  To ensure you get the most out of your conversation with a witness is best to write down a complete list of questions that you have about the accident.  As you speak with your car accident witness make sure all the questions are addressed with information, or reasons why the witness can’t provide you with the information. 

How to Question a Car Accident Witness

As you question a car accident witness, you will need to guide the conversation in order to make sure the witness provides you with the information that you need.  Starting with an open-ended question (“what did you see?”) is a good strategy, but you will need to be ready to ask specific questions to get information that was left out.  Focus on the following:

  • The weather – did the sun cause a glare?  Were the roads slippery?  Did the witness notice anything about the driving that could be attributed to the weather?
  • Details of the crash – you will need to know what exactly the witness saw in the seconds before the crash, during the crash, and immediately after the crash.  Where were the vehicles coming from? How did they collide?  Where were they positioned afterwards?
  • Distance estimates – although it can be difficult, ask the witness to estimate the distances between vehicles when he first noticed them, and how much time passed before the cars hit. 
  • The scene of the crash – have the witness recreate the scene of your car accident by describing the location in as much detail as they can provide.  Identify streets, traffic signals, other cars, etc.  If possible, have the witness draw you a diagram.
  • Avoid opinions and speculation – although the witness will color their recollection with opinion, you should make every attempt to stick to the facts.  Speculation about what other drivers or witnesses may have said or thought will not help and likely won’t be admissible in court.  Have your witness stick to the facts about what they saw.

You should always record your questions to a car accident witness to ensure the statement is accurately reflected in an insurance claim or legal action.  If you have any questions or concerns about getting a statement from a witness to your car accident, consult an experienced attorney for assistance.

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