July 10, 2017
The legal system would be in shambles if it weren’t for the testimonies of witnesses. There have been many cases, both big and small, where a witness offered the most important shred of evidence for the case.
So what happens in your personal injury case when you are denied access to a witness who could play a huge role in fighting for you?
This was the story of Tracy Ruzzier, who filed a suit against Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Healthcare. Tracy claims that her slip and fall was the fault of a hospital attendant who required that Tracy stand and walk to her wheelchair upon discharge. Tracy claims that the pain medicine she was on impaired her ability to walk, and because the attendant refused to bring the wheelchair closer to the bed, Tracy slipped and fell.
However, Tracy ran into issues with the case when the hospital refused to allow access to two potential witnesses: Tracy’s roommate and the roommate’s visitor, both of whom witnessed the whole ordeal. The hospital claimed that the releasing of any information of the roommate would be a violation of HIPPA. Tracy’s attorneys argued that no medical information would need to be disclosed for the case, so HIPPA didn’t apply. Despite the fight, the hospital still refuses to cooperate for the time being.
Different Types of Witnesses
This case illustrates the importance of a witness. If the witness could not play a significant role in the decision, then the hospital would be less likely to fight so hard to keep the roommate and the roommate’s visitor off the stand. The right witness can make all the difference in a case. Every case is different, and as a result, every case requires a different type of witness:
- Eyewitness: An eyewitness would be anyone who witnesses your slip and fall. They do not have to be a professional; they just need to be able to recount the incident in a truthful manner. This type of witness is important because he had an actual view of the accident and therefore can provide evidence as to how and why your personal injury occurred.
- Expert: An expert does not have to see the accident occur; she simply needs to be an educated professional with the necessary credentials in her field to add to the case. For example, a medical expert can attest to the injuries that you acquired, and how she believes they were caused.
How to Protect Your Witness
Though the witness has a legal obligation to explain what he saw, you also have a responsibility to recognize the importance of the witness and treat him with respect.
One way to show respect to your witness is to get his contact information at the scene. If Tracy asked her roommate for her contact information whenever the slip and fall occurred, the whole process would have been simplified.
It is also important that you do not harass your witness. Your lawyer should be the one to contact your witness so that he does not become overwhelmed or unwilling to cooperate.
Finally, it is important that the witness feels that he has the right to share what he saw with no persuasion. It would be unfair to pressure the witnesses into sharing any form of a biased testimony.
A witness is an important aspect of any case, and he should be treated as such. A personal injury attorney can contact eyewitnesses and experts and ask them to testify in court for your case. Contact Hensley Legal Group today for a free consultation or contact us online.