Securing a witness statement is a very important part of many private detective case assignments. Locating and interviewing witnesses on the record is crucial in order to document their version of an incident. These signed statements should be performed as soon as possible after a claim is made, to preserve an accurate memory and written account of the circumstances of the incident.
This guide delves into the importance of signed statements in the professional detective trade.
What is a Witness Statement?
Signed statements are taken orally with the investigator leading the witness through a series of general questions about the nature of an accident or incident. The investigator writes the signed statement as if the witness was writing it themselves. Generally, signed statements are hand-written by the investigator with the witness signing and dating at the end and the investigator notarizing their signature.
The statement will cover the who, what, when, where and why of the incident and will put on the record the witness’s official account of the events which transpired.
Signed statements must be given freely and should not be done in exchange for monetary compensation (which may call into question the validity of the facts contained therein) or under coercion (which is illegal).
Signed statements are important, since they commit the witness to exactly what they saw and make it very difficult to change their story later on without obviously contradicting themselves on the record.
Motivations for Taking a Signed Statement
There are so many uses for a signed statement from a witness. The most common applications of this versatile investigative tool include:
Signed statements provide evidence for insurance investigations, such as personal injury cases, maritime investigations, slip and fall cases, work injuries, car accidents, industrial accidents, fire investigations and construction accidents.
Witness interviews are used extensively in criminal investigations of all types.
Acquiring a Witness Statement
We have been involved in taking countless signed statements during our private investigation careers. The worth of a quality statement can not be overestimated, since the witness’s words are locked-in for the record and the investigator gets a real opportunity to judge the credibility, memory and personality credentials of the witness in great detail. These criteria are always useful if the case goes forward to trial. Signed statements deter witness tampering and bribing in many cases, since it is difficult to recant a well worded statement at a later time.
The main problem we see with many statements is simply the time line involved. Many insurance carriers do not get quality statements from their own in-house investigation staff and only authorize a private investigator to get the job done many years later. This allows witnesses to disappear, change their minds about cooperating with the investigation, or worse yet, can even allow bribery and tampering to take place.
To learn more about taking, or giving, a signed statement as a witness to an event under investigation, contact a professional investigator near you.