In your Personal Injury Claim, your witness statement is a document that will be used as your evidence-in-chief.
Your witness statement will effectively tell your version of events, and give you the opportunity to have your say in Court without having to go through the events again in the witness box.
However, there is more to a witness statement than a written note of everything that has happened. It is a formal, structured document that must adhere to certain standards to be valid.
If your case goes to Court, then you will be questioned on your witness statement by the other side and asked to expand on certain issues. This will be done in the witness box, before a judge, so that the Judge can hear your comments and build their understanding of your claim.
It is important that your witness statement is highly detailed as it will serve as an opportunity for you to go through the entirety of your claim in a single document. Anything not included will be given less weight or influence should your claim go to Court.
What Needs To Go Into Every Witness Statement?
Every single witness statement should:
- Be headed with the title of the proceedings;
- State the full name and address of the witness;
- Give the witness’s occupation state the absence of occupation;
- Be typed if possible, and printed on single side A4 paper;
- Be divided into numbered paragraphs;
- End with a signed and dated Statement of Truth.
Your statement should include a very brief overview of your health before your injury, how your injury occurred, the immediate aftermath, your treatment, any financial losses you have suffered, any help and assistance you have received from friends and family, any ongoing symptoms you are suffering and how your injury has impacted your employment, hobbies, family, and relationships.
The Language in your Witness Statement
Your witness statement should ‘tell the story’ of your accident and recovery and the effect this has had on your life and those around you.
You must remember that you will have personal knowledge of the events covered by your statement. The Judge will not. Therefore, it is important that you cover all of the necessary background and subsequent events. Your aim should be to get your side of the story across to the Judge. To do this, your statement needs to be structured with all the events described in chronological order and clear language. A statement which does not cover the material in chronological sequence or uses long-winded language is likely to confuse.
It is common for people to feel that, as the witness statement is a legal document, it should be full of long words and rambling sentences. This is not the case. You must draft your statement using clear language; this means that you should not use any over-elaborate words or flowery language.
A sentence that reads I was injured in a road traffic accident is far preferable to I collided brusquely with the Defendants automatized motor vehicle.
The Order of Your Witness Statement
When drafting your Witness Statement, you should make sure it contains certain information. Most personal injury witness statements can fit into a set pattern that is straight forward to follow and will be detailed below.
The use of subheadings is encouraged as it makes reading long statements much easier as the information is broken down and easy to spot.
Your statement should contain the following headings:
Under this heading, you will describe the physical mechanics of your accident. You should explain step by step how your accident happened, as well as what happened immediately afterwards, with as much detail as you can recall. If you cannot remember certain points in time then say so, do not include information that comes from someone else.
For example, if you suffered a fall but do not recall what happened immediately following your fall then say so. Explain that you were dazed by the fall and cannot remember what happened, state that your next clear memory is of X. Do not say that your partner who was there when you fell says that X, Y & Z happened immediately after your fall. Your partner can make their statement and say this themselves.
Under this heading, you should also state why you feel the Defendant was at fault, why they caused your accident.
This heading should detail what injury you have suffered. Be sure to include all your injuries even if you feel they are insignificant; this includes any psychological injuries you have suffered. Remember the more detail you add, the stronger your case will be.
If you have suffered multiple injuries, then you can use bullet points to make this nice and clear.
If possible, you should state how long it took you to recover from the injury or if you have not recovered at the time of writing the statement
This section should detail your treatment. This will probably be the largest part of your statement, as you will have to provide details of each and every appointment you attended for your injury. You should include details such as:
- The date and time of the appointment;
- Who you saw;
- What was discussed;
- How the appointment ended, e.g. what were you told would happen next.
If you are unsure of these details, you can visit your GP surgery and Hospital and request a copy of your medical records. Your medical records will have a detailed account of your appointments and what was discussed. You may have to pay for these, but the GP or Hospital cannot charge you over £50.00 for these.
Under this heading you will talk about the amount of help, care and assistance you needed after your accident. You should include as much detail as you can, make sure to include detail about what care/help you needed and why also name who provided this care/assistance to you and how long it took them each day/week to provide this. For example, you could say, I needed help from my partner, Lisa, with fetching and carrying, she also did my share of the domestic chores and drove me to all my appointments. This took on average four hours each day. I needed this level of care for the first two weeks after my accident.
If the person who provided care and assistance to you is willing, it would be helpful if they did a supporting witness statement, detailing the care and support they provided to you. They should give as much detail as possible, regarding what jobs/tasks they carried out, how often this was done and how long it took them.
Financial Losses & Loss of Earnings
Under this section, you need to provide details regarding how much time you had to take off work and whether you received sick pay for this time. If your sick pay was less than your regular take home wage, you need to be specific about how much income you lost.
You should also use this heading to discuss how much money you had to spend on medicines, aids and other items that you would not have bought but for your accident.
You should provide evidence for any claim you make about finical losses; evidence can include copies of your wage slips, or receipts/invoices for items. These can be attached to your witness statement as exhibits.
Effect on Your Lifestyle
Under this heading, you should provide details regarding your injury’s impact on your way of life. Did it stop you from pursuing your hobbies, going on holiday, spending time with your kids/grandkids? Did it impact on your relationship with your family, friends or significant other? Did it impact on your sex life? You need to seriously consider the effect your injury has had on you and include as much detail as possible.
You should now have an understanding of what a witness statement is, what it is designed to accomplish and how to put one together.