Mesa AZ | Determining fault in a car accident

Q: I was recently injured in a car accident. I planning to hire an attorney and bring a personal injury claim against the other driver. However, I am really worried about a trial, if it comes to that. I am very sure that the accident was not my fault, but there were no other cars around when it happened, and I couldn’t see any people nearby either. So, it will probably be my word against his word – there were no other witnesses. The other driver seemed very willing to lie to the police at the scene of the accident to avoid getting in trouble. I am worried that he will lie in a trial too. Is there anything to stop him from lying to the jury at a trial?

A: In reality, no, there is nothing that will absolutely prevent a person from lying on the witness stand in a court of law. Lies in court do happen.

Formally, of course, lies at trial are completely prohibited. Each time a witness is called to testify, the judge will have the witness “sworn in.” The witness takes an oath to tell the truth, and only the truth. If a witness disregards this instruction and is caught in a lie, the witness can be held in contempt of court or even charged with perjury later. However, proving a lie can be very difficult.

Furthermore, there are often genuine disputes in trial regarding the truth. Memories are not perfect, perception can differ between individuals, and two very different versions of the facts can be presented without any party intentionally lying.

This is where the jury comes in. The jury must hear all the evidence, review it, and determine what really happened in the incident(s) that led to the trial. In your case, the jury will have to decide between your version of the story and the other driver’s. Thus, you and your attorney must convince the jury to believe your side of the story.

This can be done by presenting a strong case for your side and then attacking the other driver’s case. If you think that the other driver is not going to be fully truthful on the stand, or even if he believes he is being truthful but his version of the facts is incorrect, you and your attorney must be prepared to call the credibility of his testimony into question. The judge will instruct the jury con credibility, and the instruction will likely go something like this (per Arizona’s Revised Civil Jury Instructions):

In deciding the facts of this case, you should consider what testimony to accept, and what to reject, you may accept everything a witness says, or part of it, or none of it.

In evaluating testimony, you should use the tests for accuracy and truthfulness that people use in determining matters of importance in everyday life, including such factors as: the witness’ ability to see or hear or know the things to which he/she testified; the quality of his/her memory; the witness’ manner while testifying; whether he/she has any motive, bias, or prejudice; whether the witness is contradicted by anything he/she said or wrote before trial, or by other evidence; and the reasonableness of the testimony when considered in the light of the other evidence. Consider all of the evidence in light of reason, common sense, and experience

To prepare to convince the jury that the other driver lacks credibility, you need to prepare to impeach the other driver’s testimony. Impeachment is the process of calling the credibility of a witness’s testimony into question. It is typically done by introducing evidence that contradicts the witness’s evidence, introducing evidence of the witness’s character for untruthfulness, or generally showing that the witness’s testimony should not be trusted or believed. There are various ways to accomplish this, and you and your attorney must carefully prepare a strategy that fits your specific case.

If impeachment is done correctly, you will be able to show the jury that the other driver’s side of the story should not be considered credible. If you are successful, it will not matter that the other driver is untruthful on the witness stand, because the jury will be convinced that your side is the credible one.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney regarding Lies at Trial, or other personal injury matters, call 480.461.5300. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.