You have just been involved in a car accident where you are not at fault and you are stunned. It is hard to know what took place because it all happened so fast. Then your luck changes because a witness to the accident approaches and can tell you exactly what took place.
A witness to an accident can be very beneficial to you when you go after the other person's insurance company for your damages. Once you have made your claim the adjuster assigned to your case will want to get the facts of what happened. Normally this comes from you and the other driver.
Each driver is likely to have a different point of view of what happened. The police report can only state what the officer saw of the aftermath at the accident scene. It can sometimes be hard to determine exactly what took place from the report or officer's notes. The next option for an account of the incident is from any witness that stopped and gave their information.
Unfortunately, it seems that people these days are too busy to stop when legally they should if they have seen an accident. People tend to tell themselves they would not make a good witness or they were not paying enough attention to give a detailed description of the occurrence. So when a person does stop it is your good fortune.
Now that the person has stopped and checked to make sure you are okay what is the next step? Ask directly if the person saw the whole accident or just the aftermath. Hopefully they will say they saw the whole thing. Find out exactly where they were at when the accident happened. This will allow you to take pictures from their viewpoint.
Taking photos from the witness's vantage point is important. This should help your claim by giving photographical evidence of where the witness viewed the incident. This way the insurance adjuster can not come back later saying the witness account should be disregarded because they could not see where the collision occurred at.
Next find out if the witness is willing to give you their personal information. The person will usually agree to do so since they have already stopped and offered themselves up to help. You need to get the person's name, telephone number, address and any other pertinent information so that you, the police or the insurance companies can reach them in the days to come.
Hopefully the witness will have time to wait around for the police to show up and take their statement for the official police report. If it is taking a long time for the police to arrive the person might need to leave. If this is the case thank the person for stopping and waiting. Say you understand they have to leave but ask them to write down a witness statement before they go.
The witness statement should include the person's personal information again plus a detailed account of what they saw happen. Make sure if they saw that the other person was at fault that to plainly state that. The witness should then sign and date the statement at the bottom. If there are multiple pages it is smart to have each page initialed or signed by the witness. You then can either keep this account or more likely the police officer will want to keep it or at least take notes from it for their report.
If the police officer takes the statement from you ask for a copy of it to go in with the police report so that you can get a duplicate of it later for your own files. If the person can wait around for the police you might still request a written statement so that if the officer does not type up a detailed report you have the information.
You should ask the witness to write down an account for themselves to take home with them. Right after the accident occurred it is fresh in their mind. When the insurance adjuster calls them a few days later a witness may have already forgotten what exactly they saw. If they have their own notes about what they viewed they are more likely to read over them and give a better, helpful statement.
If you have just been crashed into by another vehicle one of the best things that can happen to you is a witness appearing. This witness can not only clear up what happened for you but also for the insurance company. Any help you can get convincing the insurance adjuster of what actually occurred is true good fortune.