Many a legal investigator has helped solve a case by discovering a witness to an excited utterance at an accident scene or other incident. An excited utterance is of course, in the law of evidence, an exception to the hearsay rule and can be admitted to a trier of fact, a judge or jury. A few years ago, during a routine neighborhood canvas near an accident site, we encountered one such witness.
We were investigating on behalf of an area farmer whose hay wagon had been rear-ended by a gentleman driving a sports car. The farmer was starting to turn off the highway just over a small hill and was heading through a gate to unload the hay when the sports car came around the corner and over the hill, unable to stop soon enough to avoid the rear end crash into the wagon. Our client, the farmer, received a broken arm and shoulder injury as he attempted to control his tractor. The car driver was not injured, although his air bag deployed.
Our attorney client alleged the sports car driver was traveling at a high rate of speed in a claim for damages to the hay wagon and the rear of the farmer’s tractor. In addition, a wagon load of hay landed on the highway and had to be cleaned up. That’s when the accident was compounded. The falling hay had caused an accident in the oncoming lane of traffic, when an older model minivan had run off the road to avoid the falling hay and the “jackknifing” wagon.
We knew only one witness had been interviewed by the investigating officer, who had arrived 20 minutes after the accident. There was a woodworking business next to the farm where the accident occurred, but the witness who was interviewed was the farmer’s friend, who was helping him that day and was standing by the farm gate as the farmer was turning off the road. He saw the oncoming sports car just as it suddenly came over the hill. We didn’t know if anyone at the woodworking business had seen the accident. Also, there were nearby homes as well. A neighborhood canvas was called for.
We were lucky with our first interview at the woodworking business. One of the employees had heard the accident and stepped out to the driveway to see what had happened, just as the owner of the sports car climbed out and walked up the embankment. The worker asked the driver if he was all right, and the driver responded, “I must have been going too fast.” We, of course, knew that this was good news for our client, but we decided to extend the canvas to a residence across the street from where the minivan had run off the road. This time we encountered another excited utterance, not made by the driver of the sports car who was too far away to have been heard, but by the driver of the minivan, who had told the neighbor she couldn’t stop quick enough to avoid the falling hay because her brakes had failed.
One case, two excited utterances about the same accident, from two different perspectives. Unusual but not unheard off. And the second witness turned out as valuable for the farmer as the first when an insurance claim was filed against him by the minivan driver’s insurance company.
When you need experienced legal investigators to conduct a neighborhood canvas after an accident, contact Trace Investigations at (812) 334-8857 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.