Talking To A Witness

In the legal field, much of your job is to decipher what exactly happened and trying to uncover the truth.  In many ways, it’s much like being a detective except in this case, you have an ally.  The witness is an indispensable component to understanding many situations.  Often times it is a paralegal’s job to talk to a witness and learn certain information from them.  Learning the basic facts as well as any helpful details can contribute to helping a lawyer to have a much easier time.

Before You Start
When you sit down to begin the interview process, several pieces of information need to be discussed first and foremost.  Make sure the witness understands that this conversation is being recorded and that it is under oath.  Once you are sure they understand the premises, have them formally introduce themselves with their name and age.  Other information such as marital status, spouse’s name, current phone numbers and addresses, and present occupation will help you to locate them after the interview is over on the off chance you need them to testify or need more information.  Also, record what date and time this interview is taking place as well as the location.

Get The Facts
Once you do start, you’ll need to get the concrete facts about what they saw.  For example, ask them on what date and at what time did the incident occur.  Although you may already know this, you’ll need to have it on record for the lawyer and judges at a later date.  Have them describe in as best detail possible what happened including where they were in relation to the incident and what the surrounding conditions were.  What was the weather that day?  What was everyone wearing?  What were the roadways like?  All of those questions may seem mundane, but they are instrumental in establishing a scenario.  If possible, have the witness draw a diagram.  This can be used in court if necessary and will give you a better picture overall of what things were like at that moment on that day.

What Happened Next
Although it’s not as pleasant, you’ll need to find out about any of the negative after effects.  Did the witness see any injuries on the claimant or was the claimant describing any pain?  Was there any damage to the claimant or cars (if applicable)?  These kinds of questions can be touchy, but they are important in explaining what went wrong.  These will benefit, or counteract, any statements already gathered by the claimant or other witnesses.

Talking to a witness is necessary and will make or break some cases.  As anyone in paralegal careers can tell you, this is a vital component to any court case.  Following these tips and your own instincts will help both you and others to ensure that justice is reached.

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