Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and the Importance of Credible Witnesses
This year’s presidential election is one of the most contentious in recent history. Accusers have emerged, alleging that the Republican nominee for President Donald J. Trump sexually harassed and assaulted multiple women years earlier. Accusers have likewise charged that the husband of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (that is, former President Bill Clinton) has engaged in much of the same behavior. Each campaign is now focusing on discrediting the accusers, and in so doing each campaign reminds personal injury victims of the importance of witness credibility in succeeding with your personal injury case.
What is Witness Credibility?
In a nutshell, a witness’s credibility refers to that witness’s believability. A credible witness is one who is believed by those who are hearing his or her story and assertions. A personal injury case – any lawsuit, civil or criminal, for that matter – boils down to a contest between the credibility of witnesses. Suppose a simple car accident occurs in which you are struck by another driver. Each driver asserts the other one is responsible for causing the crash. At trial, each side produces one witness who claims to have seen the accident. The victor in this personal injury case would ultimately be the driver whose witness the judge or jury found to be more credible.
What Affects Witness Credibility?
Determining what sort of witness a judge or jury finds to be credible is an imprecise science. What one judge or jury finds to be important in determining credibility may not be convincing to another judge or jury. A judge or jury may analyze and consider:
- The witness’s appearance and demeanor while on the stand (does he or she appear sketchy? Does the witness sound honest?).
- The consistency of the witness’s story – if the witness says one thing on the stand but told law enforcement something else, the witness may not be found to be credible.
- The ability of the witness to remember crucial details about the event.
- The witness’s ability to see and hear the events about which he or she testifies (for example, if the witness claims he was in a loud and busy restaurant at the time of the crash and heard squealing tires, a judge or jury might doubt the witness’s credibility).
- Available corroborating evidence that “backs up” what a witness says.
Can My Attorney Help My Witnesses Appear More Credible?
As part of the investigation into your case that precedes the presentation of your case, your personal injury attorney should work to identify all witnesses that may have seen your personal injury accident. Your attorney can then determine which witnesses are likely to be viewed as more credible than others. Other witnesses who may not be as credible but whose testimony is essential to the presentation of your case may be able to be given tips and feedback to assist them in appearing more credible.
Heiting & Irwin is a California personal injury law firm devoted to assisting victims of catastrophic injuries, car accidents, premises liability accidents, and other types of personal injury accidents. Call the firm at (951) 682-6400 or contact our firm online if you or your loved one were injured as the result of someone else’s negligent behavior.
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