DRIVING PERSPECTIVE BLOG

Painting the Complete Picture: The Use of Witnesses in Trials

Driving in the 21st Century, Featured
Oct 10/2017 Published by:

It’s 3 a.m. Gene Zipperle is awakened by a call about a major collision involving a truck that belongs to one of his clients. Zipperle quickly pulls together a rapid-response team that includes a photographer, an engineer, and an independent adjustor. Within minutes, the team is proceeding to the scene to take photos and measurements and talk to witnesses.

What they do in those first hours is critical to the legal outcome of the event. But among their most important actions is gathering eyewitness testimony.

Although this particular scenario is hypothetical, dozens of similar, real-life events have played out for Zipperle over the 30 years he’s practiced transportation law. Now an attorney with Ward, Hocker & Thornton, Zipperle explains how witnesses are used in courtroom trials, where millions of dollars, and a company’s hard-won reputation, hang in the balance.

“You have to paint the picture for the jury,” Zipperle said in an interview with Lytx. “You have to put the jury in the driver’s seat so they have the ability to re-live that accident. No two witnesses have the same story. The more witnesses you have, the more blanks you can fill in for the jury. The more gaps in the story you can fill, the better off you will be.”

Why would you be better off? Because, “if you don’t, jurors will fill in those blanks according to their own life experiences,” Zipperle said. In other words, personal bias will creep into the void, coloring jurors’ perspectives in unpredictable ways. “That’s why witnesses are critical.”

Witnesses long have played a role in effecting the outcome of all manner of altercations. In many ways, eyewitness accounts are among the most influential categories of evidence. Yet, not all witnesses are equal. Many factors can affect witness credibility, Zipperle said, such as:

  • Whether the witness has a stake in the outcome
  • Their proximity to the scene
  • The consistency of their testimony
  • Their prior connections to the parties involved
  • Their life experience bringing potential perspective bias

Still, jurors tend to weigh eyewitness accounts heavily, even though there have been several studies showing that such accounts can be unreliable and vulnerable to suggestion. But there’s another type of evidence that almost always takes precedence when it comes to swaying jurors:  video.

“Video almost always trumps eyewitness accounts,” Zipperle said. You can read more about the use of video in litigation in this three-part series.

The strongest cases, however, are built using an interlocking combination of eyewitness accounts and corroborating video. To do that, it’s best to get to the scene as soon as possible —  before witnesses wander away, before memory fades or alters, and before the evidence is literally swept away.

“The company should have every version of the event that’s out there,” Zipperle said. “And, hopefully, they all match.”

Among the key witnesses in such cases is the company driver. In his decades of gathering testimony, Zipperle has found that drivers’ accounts generally fall into three categories. With severe accidents, some drivers may suffer trauma and not be able to recall what happened. Others will try to protect themselves and tell the least damaging version of the events, which will likely conflict with other witness testimony and, if available, any video evidence. This second category can spell trouble, especially if the driver has given the flawed version of the event to the police that will later be refuted.

The third scenario is when the driver does his or her best to accurately describe what occurred. “That’s the driver you want,” Zipperle said. “With video, it’ll be fairly clear which category your driver falls into.”

Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to our blog here and be the first to receive our updates!

# # #


Related Tags

Related Blog Posts

Apr 29 / 2016Driving in the 21st Century

Partnering with Autonomous Vehicles

Gretchen Griswold

Sep 24 / 2015Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Changing Habits by Retraining Muscle Memory

Gretchen Griswold

Sep 16 / 2015Driving in the 21st Century

Understanding the Demand for Driverless Cars

Staff Writer

Sep 14 / 2015Driving in the 21st Century

Who Will Code Ethics into Autonomous Vehicles?

Staff Writer

Aug 25 / 2015Driving in the 21st Century

Innovation’s Role in Recruiting the Next Generation of Drivers

Staff Writer

Aug 18 / 2015Driving in the 21st Century

Frost & Sullivan report: 1 million vehicles with video-based safety by 2020

Staff Writer

Aug 13 / 2015Driving in the 21st Century

Humans vs. Robot Cars: Preparing for the Showdown

Staff Writer

Jul 24 / 2015Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Big Data, Better Drivers

Staff Writer

Feb 18 / 2015Driving in the 21st Century

Predictive Analytics: Game Changer

Bryon Cook

Jan 15 / 2015Driving in the 21st Century

CES Focus: Road Safety

Staff Writer

Nov 03 / 2014Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Adjusting to Standard Time

Del Lisk

Oct 17 / 2014Driving in the 21st Century

It Takes More than Technology To Make Roads Safer

Del Lisk

Sep 17 / 2014Driving in the 21st Century

Women on the Road

Staff Writer

May 21 / 2012Driving in the 21st Century

Is Our Commute Killing Us?

Global Administrator

May 23 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Retraining to Retain Your Drivers

Gretchen Griswold

May 25 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Taking the Risk Out of One of the Riskiest Professions

Gretchen Griswold

Jun 01 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

From 190 to 1 in a Blink of an Eye: Managing the Heinrich’s Pyramid Challenge

Gretchen Griswold

Jun 03 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Not All Distractions Are Created Equal: Why Even Hands-Free Can Lead to Collisions

Gretchen Griswold

Jun 15 / 2016Driving in the 21st Century, Featured

How Gamification Might Help Drivers Optimize Driving and Vehicle Performance

Gretchen Griswold

Jun 23 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Who – or What -- Does the Heavy Lifting to Improve CSA Scores?

Gretchen Griswold

Jul 07 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

The Top Three Things Fleet Managers Can Do to Proactively Manage Their Safety Program

Gretchen Griswold

Jul 08 / 2016Choosing the Right Program, Featured

Meet Janelle: The Cone Destroyer

Gretchen Griswold

Jul 27 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Choosing the Right Program, Featured

Using Data to Prioritize Your Fleet’s Safety Issues

Gretchen Griswold

Jul 29 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Driving for the Limits of Automated Technology

Brandon Nixon

Aug 18 / 2016Choosing the Right Program, Featured

DOT Regulations: From the Same Government Who Brought You the Tax Code

Gretchen Griswold

Aug 24 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Why Unsafe Drivers Are Often the Biggest Fuel Offenders

Staff Writer

Sep 08 / 2016Choosing the Right Program, Featured

Hours of Service, Driver Behavior and the ELD Mandate: American Central Transport’s Story

Gretchen Griswold

Sep 26 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Fleet Safety: The Dangers Lurking Inside Your Fleet

Staff Writer

Oct 19 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

The Hallmark of a Successful Video-based Safety Program

Gretchen Griswold

Oct 28 / 2016Choosing the Right Program, Featured

What You Might Not Know About the ELD Mandate

Staff Writer

Nov 01 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Fleet Safety: Putting a Stop to Rolling Stops

Staff Writer

Nov 09 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

The Three Types of Distracted Driving – and How to Solve Them – Part 1: Manual Distractions

Staff Writer

Nov 15 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

The Three Types of Distracted Driving – and How to Solve Them – Part 2: Visual Distractions

Staff Writer

Nov 23 / 2016Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Distracted Driving Behaviors – and How to Solve Them – Part 3 Cognitive Distractions

Staff Writer

Dec 06 / 2016Capitalizing on Your Investment, Featured

Making a Case for Video Part 1: The Value of Video in Litigation

Staff Writer

Dec 16 / 2016Choosing the Right Program, Featured

Making a Case for Video Part 2: Exoneration From The Driver’s Seat

Staff Writer

Dec 22 / 2016Capitalizing on Your Investment, Featured

Making a Case for Video Part 3: The Company and the Courtroom

Staff Writer

Jan 10 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Three Things That Put Teeth in Your Safety Policy

Gretchen Griswold

Feb 01 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Effective Video Review: Better Coaching

Staff Writer

Feb 28 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

High-Efficiency Driving: Five Driver Behaviors that Reduce Cost

Staff Writer

Mar 02 / 2017Capitalizing on Your Investment, Featured

What’s a Safety Halo? And Can it Help Build Your Brand?

Staff Writer

Mar 22 / 2017Choosing the Right Program, Featured

From the Front Lines: Turning Data into Insight

Staff Writer

Mar 24 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Part 2: Using DriveCam® Event Data to Drive More Effective Coaching

Staff Writer

Mar 28 / 2017Featured

Part 3: Getting Drivers and Managers to Buy into Analytics

Staff Writer

Apr 14 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Driving in the 21st Century, Featured

Autonomous Vehicle Essentials You Need to Know Part One: Levels of Automation

Staff Writer

Apr 18 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Driving in the 21st Century, Featured

Autonomous Vehicle Essentials You Need to Know Part Two: Impact on Drivers, Fleets and the Industry

Staff Writer

May 30 / 2017Featured

A Safety Manager Uses Math to Look Under the Surface

Staff Writer

Jun 07 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

A Swift Guide to Better Coaching

Staff Writer

Jun 26 / 2017Driving in the 21st Century, Featured

How ‘Cultural Novocain’ is Numbing Outrage to Traffic Fatalities

Gretchen Griswold

Jun 30 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

A Practical Guide to Difficult Conversations: How to Coach Through Conflict

Staff Writer

Jul 06 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Why Putting Positivity Behind Your Training Program Will Pay Off

Beth Geraci

Jul 17 / 2017Driving in the 21st Century, Featured

On Both Sides of the Atlantic, More Fatalities Take Place on Rural Roads. Here’s Why.

Beth Geraci

Jul 18 / 2017Capitalizing on Your Investment, Featured

Secrets of Top Performing Fleets

Staff Writer

Jul 25 / 2017Capitalizing on Your Investment, Featured

The Power of Peers to Inform Fleet Safety

Beth Geraci

Aug 10 / 2017Driving in the 21st Century, Featured

Distracted Pedestrians are On the Rise: What to Do About Them

Staff Writer

Aug 16 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Driving in the 21st Century, Featured

Fear of Autonomous Vehicles – Loving of Autonomous Features

Staff Writer

Aug 31 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Is Your Rewards Program a Bust? Liven It Up Through These Great Alternatives

Staff Writer

Sep 01 / 2017Driving in the 21st Century, Featured

Trucking Industry Pulls Together to Aid Houston During Hurricane Harvey

Staff Writer

Sep 15 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

Components of Effective Accountability Systems

Staff Writer

Sep 22 / 2017Changing Driver Behavior, Featured

What’s Out There: Three Rewards Programs That Work

Staff Writer

Sep 25 / 2017Driving in the 21st Century, Featured

Video: Evolution, Revolution, or Both?

Brandon Nixon

Oct 06 / 2017Capitalizing on Your Investment, Featured

Why Reporting Claims Quickly Can Significantly Cut Claims Cost

Staff Writer

Oct 16 / 2017Capitalizing on Your Investment, Featured

Four Driver Behaviors That Consume The Most Fuel

Staff Writer