You’ve been injured at work and your co-workers saw what happened. At least, they think they did.
One of the major problems in dealing with a workplace or construction accident investigation in preparation for court is eyewitnesses who saw their co-worker get hurt. It’s not that they don’t want to help the guy out or are trying to obstruct the investigation; it’s just that in many instances what they think they saw is not what really happened.
Put another way; the eyewitnesses are not trained observers and have never been trained to be a witness. They are the guy standing next to a co-worker on a scaffold that collapsed and they are far more concerned about their safety than being able to remember the details of what happened to cause the unit to collapse. That is just human nature.
Since they don’t have much experience in being observant, when they’re asked questions that need an accurate answer, it just doesn’t happen. Couple that with passing time and you get faded memories. When a lawyer needs to interview them, they do it just about immediately after the accident. While the information might not be very accurate, it will provide some of the pieces of the puzzle.
One of the major questions lawyers ask is what did the witness actually see? This is a really sticky area, because a lot of people who say they are witnesses really only saw the aftermath of the accident, not what led to it. That means they make assumptions about what happened that may not be the case. If an attorney wants to sort out who did and didn’t see what led up to the accident, they ask the witness where they were standing.
Other hurdles to overcome in determining fault are those co-workers who want to protect their friends. The friend may have done something really dumb that caused the accident, and the co-worker, out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, will downplay whatever they did. It takes some persistence and intuition to find the truth.
At the end of the day, the attorney will typically find that many of the statements gathered are in direct conflict with one another. This isn’t unusual, as people are relying on their memories and their personal interpretation of events. While this is usually not done with malice, it means re-interviewing the witnesses whose accounts don’t add up. Some witnesses will say one thing and then immediately change their story, as they realize when they’re speaking, that they might get in trouble for what they said or cause trouble for their co-worker. Patience is the only way to deal with witnesses like this.
In the final analysis, once eyewitness interviews are done, there is usually a solid foundation on which to build a personal injury case to take to verdict.