Can a Witness be Forced to Testify in My Personal Injury Case?
Testimony from an eyewitness to an accident can sometimes make or break an injury case. But what happens when your star witness does not want to testify on your behalf in court?
Our personal injury attorneys in New Jersey are prepared to discuss your legal options when it comes to pursuing compensation for your damages, including how to deal with getting a witness statement and having him or her agree to testify on your behalf when needed.
Below, we discuss some of the legal options that may be available to your lawyer when dealing with witness testimony.
YOUR LAWYER CAN SUBPOENA A WITNESS TO TESTIFY
Witnesses can be forced to testify at a personal injury trial by way of a subpoena. A subpoena is an order issued by a court or an officer of the court, such as a lawyer, to disclose documents or appear in court to testify at a trial.
Failure to comply with a subpoena could lead to being held in contempt of court, which could lead to monetary fines or imprisonment.
There are exceptions to the requirement to answer subpoenas, such as:
- Avoiding service of process – For a witness to be subpoenaed to testify in court, he or she must be served the document. Sometimes reluctant witnesses may take extra steps to assure they are not served.
- Testifying creates an undue burden for the witness – If testifying in open court would create unnecessary difficulties for a potential witness, then he or she may be able to avoid having to respond to a subpoena, but this is usually decided on a case-by-case basis.
- Subpoena must be issued within a reasonable time for a response – The potential witness must be given enough time between the date of being served the subpoena and the date of the trial.
- Protected information is involved – if someone is required to disclose trade secrets or other confidential information or forces an expert not paid as an expert witness to provide an opinion.
There are drawbacks to issuing a forced subpoena on a witness, though, as most people tend to sour at the idea of doing something when it is mandated.
Our attorneys have plenty of experience dealing with witnesses and are prepared to take the necessary steps to avoid forcing an unwilling witness to testify, including building a strong case without that person’s testimony.
SOMETIMES SUBPOENAS ARE NOT NECESSARY
Subpoenas are a normal part of the legal process, and so they are only used when a lawsuit is filed. Subpoenas are not necessary prior to filing, so if you manage to negotiate well with the insurance company and agree to a reasonable settlement, a subpoena to a witness may not be needed.
Other times when a subpoena may not be necessary are when you have received official testimony from a witness during the discovery phase of your case. This could be either in writing or during a recorded deposition. Attorneys may use a deposition in lieu of a person’s testimony at trial in cases when there is the need for a key witness’ testimony, but for one reason or another he or she cannot testify at trial. This must usually be approved by the judge overseeing the case ahead of time, however.
TIPS FOR DEALING WITH A RELUCTANT WITNESS
Sometimes witnesses to an accident may be reluctant to offer an official statement or testify in court on behalf of an injury victim. They may say they are:
- Afraid of getting involved
- Concerned about retaliation
- Focused on not getting in trouble
- Reluctant to testify against an employer
Finding out why a person does not want to testify is the most important first step when dealing with a reluctant witness. Once you find out his or her reasoning, it is much easier to find a solution to the problem. For example, a witness who is afraid of retaliation may agree to testify under certain conditions.
Some other suggested best practices from experts include:
- Making an effort to identify with the witness
- Thank them for their time and emphasize the amount of help he or she will be
- Be flexible and work with the witness so he or she is more comfortable
- Take what you can get from the witness
It is important to note that most people are willing to testify on behalf of someone else in civil cases, especially in accident cases. Those who are reluctant but may be persuaded otherwise are the minority, and people unwilling to testify under any circumstances are a rarity.
LET US HELP. CALL TODAY
If you were injured in an accident and need help pursuing compensation for your damages, you should call our experienced lawyers today. We offer a free consultation and do not charge you anything up front.
Our attorneys are prepared to build a strong case on your behalf, which may or may not include witness testimony, to help you recover the maximum compensation.
Call (800) 518-0508 to schedule a free consultation today.