Going to trial? Have a feisty claims adjuster? It’s very important to have credible witnesses in your accident case.
So many factors go into the final outcome of your car accident case. While most personal injury claims do not go to court, about 10% do. And that’s where having credible witnesses can make a huge difference in your case.
But, you can’t have just any old witness. For example, say they look like your average, fine, upstanding Texan. They speak intelligently. They have a clean and neat appearance.
Everything looks good, right? But then a background check shows they have a history of felony drug possession. Even though they’ve kept their criminal record clean for the last couple years, their credibility is seriously damaged just because of that past transgression. You might not want to have that person testifying on your behalf unless it is absolutely necessary.
What Makes a Witness Look Credible to the Jury?
What do juries tend to think that makes a witness appear credible? Here are some factors they are likely to consider:
- The consistency of the statements the witness gives and timing of the statements (shortly after the event or some time removed from same)
- Whether it appears the witness recalls your auto accident accurately
- If his or her description of events seem realistic
- If they appear to be lying
- The attitude of the witness
- If the witness had any apparent “axe to grind” against either side (bias)
- The prior criminal record of the witness
- The physical appearance of the witness
These are all factors you would likely consider if you were serving as a juror on a criminal or civil case. But, you likely won’t know some of the next stuff.
How Can a Defending Lawyer Ruin the Credibility of Your Witness?
Here’s how a lawyer might do that:
- They can attack any fee(s) paid to retain experts by suggesting the expert is really there to make money, i.e. a “hired gun.”
- Suggesting your treating doctors’ bills are too high or that they too are motivated solely by money in the care they provided you
- They might also go after a pattern of behavior, like an expert only testifying on behalf of plaintiffs (indicating they may be biased)
- They can expose inconsistencies in the statements of lay witnesses
- Always ask “yes/no” questions in a leading manner that can cause doubt in the credibility of the witness testimony
- Using the “primacy effect,” which is leading with a fact that could color the rest of the cross-examination
So as you can see, adjusters and defense lawyers can attempt to make good, respectable people come across as complete liars and fools. This is yet another reason why you need the best lawyer you can get on your side.
Shane V. Mullen is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas for the general practice of law, and the Managing Partner at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm in Dallas, TX. His firm focuses exclusively on personal injury law and has been in business for 40 years (since 1983). Before becoming a lawyer, Shane worked for his father as an accident injury claims investigator.