In the quest for useful, legal witness testimony, recorded statements offer distinct advantages over written statements. Although both written and recorded witness statements provide the attorney a narrative of the events in the witness’ own words, only a recording captures the sometimes subtle nuances of what the witness saw and how they saw it. If not successfully preserved, that unique perspective – and the attorney’s opportunity to use it – is lost forever.
Witness statements help establish liability, but a recorded witness statement is far more than a simple catalogue of events given in the witness’ own words. It also serves as a kind of witness of the witness, preserving his or her accent, vocal inflection, and strength and volume of voice. A witness’ patterns of speech, such as hesitation, pressured speech, and erratic changes in pitch or volume, may inform an attorney’s impressions of the witness, but only if those patterns are available for review in a recorded format.
There is a right way, a wrong way, and a best way to capture recorded witness statements. Some witnesses become nervous or distracted once they know they are being recorded. Poor audio equipment or excessive background noise can ruin the quality of a recorded statement, and interviewee’s skills at using audio equipment are highly variable.
Questions to ask when choosing a professional to record your witness statements:
- Do you follow a specific format for witness interviews? A good investigator uses a format with specific questions related to the incident at issue (car crash, slip and fall, dog bite). This ensures that a comprehensive interview with the witness is completed.
- How do you handle a difficult witness? Skilled investigators are masters at balance. They know how to take a statement that is investigative and complete without compromising its usefulness at trial.
- Can I expect anything from you other than the recorded statement? A trained investigator adds value to your process by forming impressions of a witness and uncovering peripheral information about the witness that may be useful to the attorney. For example, statements by other parties, potential mitigating or aggravating circumstances, establishing notice, relationships with other witnesses or victim, etc.
- May I speak with any of your clients? Satisfied clients are the hallmark of an effective investigator. If a professional investigator can’t or won’t provide references, steer clear.
At Complete Legal Investigations, we are dedicated to providing “Confidence Through Information.” We use a recording format that was developed specifically by and for plaintiff attorneys to record witness statements. Our trained investigators conduct impartial, third-party, and objective interviews that are preserved to permanent media (digital or tape). We make your job easier with witness statements that are recorded, transcribed, and forwarded to you by e-mail and/or hard copy.
When you’re ready to discover the difference recorded witness statements can make for you and your clients, call the experts at Complete Legal Investigations.