Should you record a witness statement during the early stages of investigating a personal injury case? Our experts say definitely not! Here’s why:
Again and again, we come across tape-recorded witness statements that plaintiff’s attorneys (and others) have obtained very early in the investigative process of personal injury cases. The practice of many lawyers appears to be to hire an investigator, give him a list of potential witnesses and set him lose to record any and all statements he can get. This is akin to a surgeon opening up a patient without really knowing what type of surgery the patient needs (or whether she needs any surgery at all).
Any witness has the potential to provide both helpful and unhelpful testimony for the plaintiff’s case. The goal is to put together as much helpful witness testimony as possible, while avoiding, or at least neutralizing to some degree, any harmful testimony. As obvious as that sounds, it is remarkable how often plaintiff’s lawyers fail to take a strategic approach towards witness interviews and, as a result, end up with witness statements in their files that, if they were to land in the hands of the defense, would harm or even destroy the plaintiffs’ cases.
Early on in the investigative process, the plaintiff’s lawyer has probably not formulated a comprehensive theory of liability, and even if she has, that theory is likely to evolve as the case goes on. Even in the simplest auto accident case, there are subtleties which the plaintiff’s lawyer cannot possibly anticipate within the first few days or weeks after an accident. This must be kept in mind during the witness interview process.
Read more about why this is a bad practice on the Booth & Koskoff website.