Witness Statements

The art of the witness statement 05-25-17

I’ve taken 1000’s of witness statements over 30 years as a professional investigator for insurance companies, law firms and businesses throughout the country ranging from auto accidents, dog bites, slip and falls, bar fights, robberies, construction defect, work related, product liability, arson and theft to criminal cases and more. Witness statements can be either over the phone or in person.  They can be recorded or written. Most are recorded and over the phone as that is less costly for the client. Interviews will be discussed later.

I make sure the client has given me exact questions to ask and the results expected in writing so there is no confusion about the assignment. Different types of cases require a different line of questioning.  Templates are useful to learn how to ask appropriate questions per type of case or statement.  They vary greatly. I prepare for the witness statement by reading the police report and reviewing emails from the client with all their specific questions and have both on my computer screen prior to beginning. I also have a note pad and pen so I can write notes while taking the witness statement. I request the time they want the results by and the extent of effort needed to contact the witness (budget). Some clients ask to send emails, letters and locate witnesses if the initial contact information provided is old or not correct.  Weekly updates are given if not more.

I find that witnesses don’t like to be contacted before 10:00 am and no later than 7:00 pm. Telephone recorded statements are most common and usually take less than 15 or 20 minutes if you know what to ask. Communication and getting to the point are important. I always like to ask if I’ve caught the person at a bad time to make sure to show respect and patience. I like to tell them exactly who I am, why am calling, what I need and how long it will take. Depending on how they talk on the phone, I make sure that understand the call is being recorded and begin with a few questions about their background. (If you have this information from a police report or client, I just read it into the recording to save time and confirm address and date of birth).

I very quickly ask “In your own words describe what you saw or what happened, please”. I let the witness talk for as long as possible making mental or written notes about questions I want to ask based upon what they have said. This is critical.  Making sure you get to the liability issue and if the witness saw the per-accident, accident and post-accident. Getting specific details can make or break a case for either an insurance company or plaintiff’s attorney. Learning how to guide a witness through the details in a timely manner without attacking the witness has lead me to a successful career helping my clients.

I am always sympathetic to the stress of the witness and the time I’m taking out of their busy life. A few follow up questions if the witness has time to clear up issues helps the reader to feel an experienced investigator took the time to ask all relative questions. I always ask if it’s possible for me to contact them should I have follow up questions and some want me to explain how this involvement affects them.

Every case is unique and requires fluid thinking for the few minutes I have with the witness.  Quick thinking and experience to extrapolate the exact information allows the witness, the investigator and the client to know every effort to obtain a clear version of what the witness saw has occurred.

I have received 100’s of referrals from clients indicating I am the best investigator they know at obtaining witness statements or finding witnesses.

Contact Terrence Green 714-705-3360 or 1-800-972-1849 and email us at terrence@newworldinvestigations.com for additional information.

New World Investigations & Insurance Consultants419 Main St. # 13, Huntington Beach, CA 92648, Fax # 714-848-1279,  http://newworldinvestigations.com.

 

Josh Chandler

Josh is a former Federal officer with over 15 years of management experience in both the public and private sector providing expert investigations and risk management services to numerous Fortune 100 companies. He is the senior case manager for New World Investigations and also supervises the executive protection and bug sweep (TCSM) teams as required by clients. He lives in Orange County, California where he enjoys the cold water, and introducing his friends to paleo cooking.