What Is Witness Evidence?
Posted on 24th March 2020
Witness evidence is key in pretty much every case and here at MG Legal, your solicitors in Lancaster, we know the value of having accurate witness evidence and also of having the right witness evidence.
Whilst the first thing to spring to mind when people think of witnesses is “someone who saw an incident or crime happen”, this is only one of the definitions of Witness in the legal context. A witness is, in fact, anyone who can offer any piece of information that assists the parties (Claimant and Defendant) or the Court with progression or settlement of a case. The paragraphs below will use the words “Claimant” and Defendant” as used in the context of a Civil Dispute, however, the same principle still applies to the Criminal Witness Evidencing process.
The Claimant and Defendant are also required to give Witness Evidence and so, they would also be deemed Witnesses in their own case.
There are also Expert witnesses, who offer an expert opinion on facts within a case, however, this is a discussion for a different day.
How do Witnesses give evidence?
Witness Evidence is generally given by way of written statements and at Trial, orally, prompted by questions from a barrister or solicitor and on occasion, the Judge themselves.
Firstly, a written statement must be provided, which must be prepared in a certain format and with a Statement of truth, at the foot stating words to the effect of “I believe that the facts and matters contained in this statement are true” which then sets a statement as a given version of facts as the Witness believes them to be.
On the day of Trial, the Witness will be examined, or questioned, by the legal representatives of both parties on the basis of their witness statement. The use of oral examination at Trial will allow the Judge to have greater understanding of the case and for the party who supplied the Witness to hopefully support their case further. The opposing party can cross examine the Witness to attempt to undermine the support they give to their opponent’s case. To give oral evidence, the Witness must have served a signed, written statement in line with the Directions, or deadlines, in a case.
What can Witnesses give evidence on?
With any matter, be it personal injury, a property or family dispute, a Witness can give evidence on any fact of which they have knowledge and which is relevant to the case. The most obvious is the Claimant or Defendant speaking of the cause of the claim, whether this is a Road Traffic Accident, Accident at Work, Slip or Trip in the street, Landlord and Tenant Dispute, Employment Tribunal Claim, Contract Dispute, Land or Property Dispute or one of the many other types of case the Court hears on a daily basis. The Claimant will be expected to have knowledge of the facts they are using the bring the Claim and the Defendant, if they are to mount any viable Defence, must have knowledge of the facts too, albeit these versions are likely to differ if the case reaches the Court process and especially at Trial.
Additional Witnesses can give evidence on any aspect of the case that might either support one of the parties, or which may assist the Court in making a decision. Along with the obvious of the Witness to, say, a Road Traffic Accident there could be the friend or family member of someone who had a Tripping Accident in the street. Whilst they may not have seen the incident, they could confirm that the Claimant arrived home following the incident and that they were injured in the manner claimed. A Witness in an Employer’s Liability case could be a colleague who confirms a policy of unsafe working practices, even if they did not see the incident occur.
What can Witnesses not give evidence on?
In short, anything they do not know to be true or cannot offer an opinion on. A Witness could give evidence that they believe their friend is a safe driver, or that they have always driven safely when they were in the car with them, but not that they were driving safely at the time of an incident if they were not in the car at that specific time.
Any Witness evidence which is speculative or which offers unsubstantiated opinion on anything will, at best, do little to assist and at worst, draw the wrath of the Court for a party bringing a witness who is not able to give relevant or useful evidence. MG Legal, your solicitors in Lancaster, know the value of identifying and obtaining statements from the correct witnesses and drawing the most valuable, compelling evidence from them in support of our clients’ cases. There is a reason why our personal injury solicitors have a success rate for our clients, in excess of 99%. Try asking other solicitors in Lancaster and Preston how their success rate compares.
Does a Witness have to give Oral evidence at Trial?
As a rule, yes, although there are exceptions to this rule. Oral evidence is, generally speaking, the best way to get a point across and to support a case, as well as allowing the context and strength of the evidence to hit home with the Judge who is hearing the case. However, if a Witness either cannot attend the Trial, say, they are resident in a foreign country and their travel back to give evidence would be disproportionately expensive and disruptive to their life, they may give Hearsay Evidence. Hearsay Evidence may also be used when a Witness is giving very narrow evidence and there is little room for expansion on that at Trial, say, if they are giving evidence as to whether or not the Defendant’s vehicle had their headlights on.
Hearsay Evidence is when a Witnesses written statement is used as their Evidence at the Trial. The Judge would read the statement and brief representations could be made on the content, however, as there is no ability for oral testimony, there is no prospect of expansion on the evidence, although nor is there the prospects of the opposing party undermining the evidence during cross examination.
Can Witness Evidence be damaging to my case?
Definitely. The prime example of this damage is when the Claimant, or Defendant, gives a Witness statement that is later proven either by other documentation coming to light, or by changing their version of evidence in Oral evidence at Trial. To do so will severely undermine the credibility of that party and hand a major advantage to their opponent. Our solicitors in Lancaster have used the at-fault parties’ unreliable witness evidence against them on many an occasion, and have been awarded judgment in our clients’ favour, time after time.
The same applies to any Witness who is not the Claimant or Defendant, particularly if the Witness changes their version of events to conflict with yours and of course, if a Witness provides any compelling evidence which does not agree with your own, it is likely to reduce your prospects of success.
What do I need to do to help my claim with Witness evidence?
If you instruct MG Legal, your solicitors in Lancaster, to assist in any case we will ask you in our initial Claim Form for the details of any witnesses. We generally write to witnesses early in a case to obtain at least a Witness Report Form to support your version of events. It can be the difference between a claim settling very early and often without the need for any action in the Court at all and a case running to Trial. So, if you are involved in an incident, ask anyone who stops if they saw the incident occur and take their details if they are willing.
If you have an incident and there are no witnesses, remember the details of anyone who sees any injuries shortly afterwards. Witnesses can also be people like your family members or friends who can give evidence showing the effects of an injury. This is particularly useful in either unwitnessed Tripping Accidents and Employer’s Liability claims where an injury has been caused over a longer period of time.
Witness Evidence can also simply assist with Quantum (the value of a claim) to confirm that someone needed help and assistance with daily living tasks for a length of time or that their health deteriorate following an incident.
What to do if I have an accident or injury?
Contact MG Legal, your solicitors in Lancaster, for advice and we will pass you through to one of our Personal Injury specialists. We will look to assess your case and to have documents out to you the same day. We aim to accept all Personal Injury claims on a Conditional Fee Agreement (no win, no fee agreement) basis to ensure you have the access to the representation you deserve. Please contact MG Legal, your solicitors in Lancaster, to discuss your claim today. We have offices in Lancaster, Garstang and Longridge and if you wish to contact your local office, our team will put you through to the right person to get the ball rolling on your claim today.
MG Legal - Your Local Solicitors
Tagged as: Best Personal Injury Solicitors, Personal Injury Solicitors, Solicitors in Lancaster, Your Local Solicitors
Share this post: