California follows a fault-based system when it comes to car accidents. This means that drivers who cause accidents are financially responsible for their victims’ damages. If you sustain injuries in a California car crash, you may be able to file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
To prove your right to compensation, however, you will need to provide sufficient evidence that the driver caused your accident. Witness testimony can help validate your claim—but before you can use this evidence in your claim, you will need to ask a witness a few key questions at the scene.
#1: What Did You See?
The first step you should take when questioning witnesses is to establish what they actually saw. Approach the witness and ask him or her how the accident occurred. Ask the witness to go into detail and allow him or her to speak for as long as possible. Once the witness finishes relaying his or her story, you can ask follow-up questions about the other driver’s actions, his or her vantage point, and the timeline of events.
You can ask the following questions to get more detail about the witness’s point of view.
- Did you have a clear view of the accident?
- Where were you looking before the accident occurred?
- How far away were you from the accident site?
#2: When Did You Arrive at the Scene?
After you establish what the witness saw, ask him or her how he or she arrived at the scene. Ask the witness where he or she was coming from before the collision and where he or she was headed when the accident occurred. Ask the witness for the approximate time that he or she entered the area. This information will help establish the accident timeline and clarify points of confusion.
#3: Was the Other Driver Breaking the Law?
Although you should avoid sounding combative or confrontational, it is important to know whether the other driver committed a traffic violation during the accident. Since California is a fault accident state, you will need to establish that the driver either broke the law or drove in a reckless or unsafe manner. If a witness establishes that the driver broke a traffic law, your case will become much stronger.
Ask the witness about the other driver’s behavior during the accident. You can ask the following questions for more detail.
- Was the other driver speeding?
- Did you see the other driver texting or talking on the phone?
- Did it look like the driver was paying attention to the road?
- Was the driver swerving or driving aggressively?
- Do you think the driver was driving safely?
#4: Can I Have Your Contact Information?
Finally, you should ask the witness if he or she is willing to make a statement to the police and if you can have his or her contact information. By having a witness’s contact information on hand, you can ask follow-up questions and get more detail about the accident. Your lawyer may also contact the witness to ask him or her to provide a statement. Before you leave the accident scene, ask each witness for his or her name, phone number, and email address.
Speak to a California Car Accident Lawyer
If you are in a car accident in California, remain calm. After the accident, call 911, seek medical attention, and document evidence at the scene by taking photographs and speaking to witnesses. Once you receive treatment, it is important to contact a California car accident attorney as soon as possible.
A lawyer can strengthen your car accident claim in several ways, from handling negotiations with insurance companies to collecting relevant evidence to support your side of the story. Speak to a car accident lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case and legal options.