There were no witnesses to my accident - Can I still claim compensation?

Injured woman concerned that no one witnessed her accident

Having a witness to your accident can help establish the facts and support your injury claim. But what if there were no witnesses? Will a claim still be possible?

Duty of Care

For your personal injury claim to be successful, you (the claimant) will need to establish that another party (the defendant) owed you a 'duty of care'.

A duty of care is when a person, company or organisation has a legal obligation to safeguard the well-being of others. For example:

  • doctors owe a duty of care to their patients
  • employers have a duty of care to their employees
  • road users have a duty of care to other road users

Together with your solicitor, you will also need to prove that the defendant was liable for your injury. Proving liability will often rest on evidence, which might include a witness statement.

Witness statements corroborating your version of events can offer strong supporting evidence for your claim.

Depending on the circumstances, however, it may still be possible to progress an injury claim without an eyewitness account.

Who would qualify as a witness?

A witness is usually defined as a person who saw the accident happen.

With road traffic accidents, for example, a witness might be another driver, a pedestrian, or someone who saw what happened from a nearby building.

A witness might also be an individual with knowledge of the circumstances or hazards that led to the injury. For example, in a work accident claim involving an accident in a warehouse, a witness may be another employee who didn't see the accident but could attest to the warehouse being unsafe for the reasons that caused your accident, e.g. pallets were piled dangerously high.

See also:

Road traffic injury claims

Work accident claims

Warehouse injury claims

Independent witnesses

An 'independent witness' is someone with knowledge of the accident circumstances who doesn't (closely) know any of the parties involved. An independent witness can usually offer an unbiased viewpoint that carries far more weight than a witness account from a friend or family member.

A passenger in a car crash could be a witness. If the passenger knows the driver, however, his account of events might be influenced out of concern for the driver. As such the passenger would not be considered independent.

If the witness was a passenger in a taxi, however, he could be an independent witness.

How important are eyewitnesses when making a claim?

If the defendant denies liability or disputes your account of what happened, evidence from an independent eyewitness can make a crucial difference to the outcome of a claim.

Witness evidence helps to establish the facts and that your account is accurate and unexaggerated. The witness statement may be the deciding factor (in your favour) when liability is disputed by the defendant.

Having eyewitnesses is not essential, however, as many claims are won without an independent eyewitness account.

What happens if there are no witnesses?

At the start of the claim, your solicitor will gather as much information about your accident as possible.

Although a witness is generally thought of as someone who saw what happened, a witness can also be someone who had a similar accident. Someone with knowledge of an issue or defect that caused an injury could also be a witness.

A witness might be a colleague who gives evidence about historical malpractice in the workplace.

Family and friends, although not independent, may also be regarded as witnesses of the impact the accident is having on your life.

Other evidence in support of your claim can also include

  • photographs of the accident scene
  • photographs of your injuries
  • medical evidence
  • CCTV footage
  • A record in the work or public place accident book

The balance of probabilities

It is often still worth making a claim, even if there were no eyewitnesses.

In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove 'beyond reasonable doubt' that the accused is guilty. This is a very high standard of proof and can require multiple independent witness statements, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Personal injury claims are civil claims which are decided 'on the balance of probabilities'. For your case to succeed, it must be proved that your account of events is more likely than the defendant's account - even if the balance is only 51% in your favour.

It may be possible to prove that your version of events is more likely, based on medical evidence and expert witnesses' statements.

What if the witness is reluctant to give evidence?

Someone may have seen the incident but be reluctant to act as a witness or decline to come forward. Your solicitor may be able to encourage the witness to make a statement about what they saw. If the police are involved, potential witnesses may be identified and asked to provide testimony.

The witness may be concerned about having to appear in court. Generally, only very complex cases or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court. Even if the witness refuses to appear in court, their statement in support of your account may be the deciding factor that persuades the defendant to settle out of court.

See also:

How often do injury claims go to court and what if they do?

Can I start a claim without a witness?

Yes. During a free initial consultation, a solicitor will listen to your account of what happened and give you an idea of the likelihood of your case being successful. If you decide to pursue a no win, no fee injury claim, your solicitor will identify potential witnesses, where possible, and build the most robust case they can in support of your claim.

How did your injury happen?

The claims process will vary depending on how your injury happened. Click the icons below to learn more:

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Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher