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Collecting witness details after a car accident

If you’re involved in a car accident, make sure you collect the contact details of any witnesses. A witness could be your passenger, the passenger of the person you had the accident with or another motorist or passing pedestrian. This information can become crucial if you need to make a personal injury claim.

So, when you speak to a witness who saw what happened write down their:

  • 1. full name;
  • 2. postal address;
  • 3. phone number; and
  • 4. email address.

The more contact information the better.

Once you’ve done this, check you can read what they have written. Or, if you have written their contact details, repeat them back to make sure you haven’t made a mistake. This might sound obvious, but a couple of hard to read numbers or letters can render phone numbers or email addresses almost useless.

Do all of this even if the police are on the scene. This is very, very important!

For example, if you are in the London area, the police send contact details of accident witnesses to the Criminal Justice Unit in Sidcup. From this point data protection makes it almost impossible to get these details again until a police report has been requested (and paid for). This also only happens once a case is closed. For example, this will be once the police have investigated the case and decided not to prosecute the other driver. Alternatively, if they decide the prosecute the other driver, they will not allow you access to the police report until after the court proceedings have finished which will be many months after the accident itself.

Even when a police report is finally obtained the names and contact details of the witnesses may have been crossed out. The police ask the witnesses if they mind their details being disclosed to the parties or their solicitors. If they decline or do not respond, then the police will cross out the witness’s details and will not release them.

I had a no win-no fee case in London recently where my client collected contact details from all the witnesses. When the police arrived on the scene he handed these details over. The police would not release the witness details due to data protection. Several months later, when I finally got access to the contact details, I discovered the witnesses had actually left the country.

So, if a police officer asks for your list of witness names make him write a copy – otherwise you’re not just handing over contact details, you’re handing over your case!