Eyewitness testimony refers to information a person who witnesses a crime, accident, or another legally relevant event provides regarding the event’s details. In California, eyewitnesses play a crucial role in determining the truth about an event or criminal offense. In a car accident case, eyewitness evidence can help the parties identify, charge, and hold the responsible individual or entity liable for the victim’s damages. However, eyewitness testimony has come under scrutiny, and it is no surprise that even the most honest and objective individuals can make mistakes in recalling and conveying a witnessed event. These issues are even more prevalent when the witness is a child. Though there is no prohibition against children serving as witnesses in California, several considerations should be evaluated before doing so. If you have suffered injuries in a California car accident, an experienced attorney can help you navigate California’s rules about whether you can and should use a child witness to substantiate your claims.
Eyewitness Testimony in California Car Accident Cases
The civil and criminal legal system has heavily relied on eyewitness testimony. Eyewitness testimony often includes information about what happened during the actual incident, as well as everything that occurs from when the event is over to when the victim files a claim or lawsuit. Navigating the rules and procedures involving eyewitness testimony entails a comprehensive understanding of California’s complex car accident laws. While eyewitness testimony can be extremely helpful in developing leads, identifying at-fault parties, and addressing claims of comparative negligence, the evidence is not infallible. In cases involving child witnesses, the other party may go to great lengths to discount the child’s testimony.
Can Children Be Used as Witnesses in a Car Accident?
Generally, California does not maintain a specific age restriction on who can serve as a witness in a personal injury case. When determining whether a person can serve as a witness, the critical inquiry is whether they can provide accurate, reliable, and truthful testimony.
Accordingly, children who witnessed an accident as bystanders or victims can potentially serve as witnesses in a personal injury case. However, a child witness might be subject to heightened scrutiny and special considerations. The relevant considerations typically depend on the victim’s age and ability to perceive events accurately.
Courts assess a child’s competency to testify by evaluating certain factors. The factors courts look to when determining whether a child can serve as an eyewitness include the following:
- Their ability to understand the difference between truth and falsehood,
- Their ability to accurately remember events and communicate their observations, and
- The likelihood of emotional or psychological trauma on the child testifying.
In some cases, courts take steps to minimize the potential trauma that the child may experience as a result of testifying. Before deciding whether to have a child provide eyewitness testimony, it is advisable to consult with an experienced California car accident attorney.
What Can a Child Eyewitness Testify To in a Car Accident Case?
A child eyewitness can testify about various things stemming from what they saw, heard, or otherwise perceived during the accident. Some things a child witness may testify to include the following:
- The events leading up to the incident, such as the traffic, weather, road conditions, and conduct of the drivers;
- The accident itself, such as the position of the vehicles or point of impact;
- The aftermath of the accident, such as the types of injuries the parties exhibited;
- The response of emergency services; and
- The interaction between the parties.
The credibility of eyewitness testimony is the crux of this type of evidence. Therefore, a child witness’s testimony can be more credible if it is consistently substantiated by other evidence. It is important to note that the opposing party in the case will also have the opportunity to cross-examine the eyewitness to attempt to discredit the reliability of their testimony.
Learn More About When Can Children Be Used as Witnesses in a Car Accident
If you were recently injured in an accident, and have a child passenger as a witness, you may have questions or concerns about their ability to testify and the benefits and drawbacks of doing so. At the Law Offices of Ali Yousefi, we are dedicated to obtaining the best possible result in each and every case we take on. At the same time, we recognize that every client’s needs are unique, which is why we cater our representation to each individual client. We strive to resolve cases without the need for lengthy legal battles whenever possible but also maintain a robust litigation practice when the other side is unwilling to extend a fair settlement offer. To learn more and schedule a free consultation with a California car accident lawyer today, give the Law Offices of Ali Yousefi a call, or connect with us through our secure online contact form.