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Important Considerations For Interviewing Witnesses After Accident

Conduct Interviews

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After you have initially documented the accident scene, the next step is to start digging for additional details by conducting interviews. This activity is perhaps the most difficult part of an investigation. The purpose of the accident investigation interview is to obtain an accurate and comprehensive picture of what happened. Remember, you’re conducting an accident investigation, not a criminal investigation. The last thing to do in the interview is to come down hard (be accusatory) on an interviewee.

So let’s take a look at some effective techniques that will assure you get the facts. An important aspect of your job, as the interviewer, is to construct a composite story or “word picture” of what happened using the various accounts of the accident and other evidence.

Interviewing Witnesses After Accident

So, let’s review some effective interviewing techniques:

  • Tell the interviewee the purpose of the interview is to get facts, not place blame.
  • Do not interview more than one person at a time. The facts change when others are listening.
  • Ask for background information. Then, simply have the witness tell you what happened. Let them talk, and you just listen.
  • Don’t ask them “if” they can explain what happened, because they may respond with a simple “no,” and that’s that.
  • Go to the scene to interview if you can. If you can’t, find an office or meeting room that the interviewee considers a “neutral” location.
  • Put the person at ease. Explain the purpose and your role. Sincerely express concern regarding the accident and desire to prevent a similar occurrence.
  • Be friendly, understanding, and open minded. Be calm and unhurried.
  • Don’t ask leading questions; don’t interrupt; and don’t make expressions (facial, verbal of approval or disapproval).
  • Do ask open-ended questions and avoid closed-ended questions that require a simple yes and no answer.
  • Avoid asking “why-you” questions as these type of questions tend to make people respond defensively.
  • Repeat the facts and sequence of events back to the person to avoid any misunderstandings.
  • Take notes. Let the individual read your notes so that they can correct inaccuracies.
  • Don’t record the interview unless you get permission.
  • If the interviewee wants to have someone witness the interview, that’s fine.
  • Ask for the interviewee’s opinion about what can be done to prevent another accident.
  • Thank the interviewee and ask them to contact you if they think of anything else that might be helpful.

Accident Investigation Quiz

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