Reduce the Amount of Time You Spend Identifying and Locating Key Witnesses
Whether you’re engaged in a civil lawsuit or a criminal trial, witnesses can make or break your case. But identifying and locating witnesses isn’t always easy. While your client might be able to name witnesses who can speak to facts or their character, there may be other witnesses who are completely unknown to your client but have key testimony to offer.
As you know, there are three types of witnesses: lay, character and expert. The process of identifying and locating expert witnesses is a bit different than zeroing in on lay and character witnesses. That’s because expert witnesses can often be found through directory listings, professional associations and published works in academic journals. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on lay and character witnesses.
Identifying and locating lay and character witnesses can take some digging. Fortunately, online data records solutions like TLOxp®, part of our TruLookup™ product line, provide actionable and easily accessible public, proprietary and business records that can reveal potential witnesses to support cases — and save considerable time.
The challenges of identifying and locating witnesses
As you set out to find lay and character witnesses, your first resource is likely your client, but oftentimes extra effort is needed because:
- The witness is unknown to the client: This type of witness is often a bystander to the incident. For example, in a traffic accident there may be a third party (unknown to the plaintiff or defendant) who happened to witness the event. This person’s information may even have been recorded in a police report.
- The client’s memory is impaired: Physical and mental trauma can result in temporary or permanent memory loss. For example, someone who suffers a serious head injury at work might not remember the incident, events leading up to it, or people who were around when it occurred.
- Clients may just neglect to mention a witness: When asked about people who can vouch for their character, a client may name friends and family. However, it might not even occur to them to name their former roommate, a pastor or someone else who can credibly speak to their character.
Once you overcome the first hurdle of identifying witnesses, the next step is locating them. Again, if your client happens to have up-to-date witness contact information, your searches will be relatively easy; even so, you’ll still need to verify the information is correct.
Type of records can help you
When locating witnesses, the type of records search you conduct will depend, in part, on the type of matter. For example, if you’re representing a plaintiff or defendant in a traffic accident, get a copy of the police report. Not only will this name the officer on the scene, it might include names, contact information and first-person accounts of bystanders who witnessed the accident. In addition, information on past locations of applicable vehicles is often of prime importance.
Records that are generally helpful in a variety of cases include documents pertaining to a client’s current and past residences (as well as neighboring residences), along with the names of all occupants over a span of time. Social media accounts can also be helpful in identifying parties connected to a particular individual. Some social networks will show multiple degrees of relationships, allowing you to cast an even wider net.
After culling through records to identify witnesses comes the difficult task of locating them. Getting as much information as possible from your client and their contacts will make the process easier. Names, aliases, phone numbers and addresses are some of the basic pieces of information that can help you conduct a records search to verify a witness’s current location and contact information.
For businesses, you can search records to locate in which jurisdiction a company is incorporated, along with the names and locations of any owners of the business. Government-issued licenses and permits are also useful, including professional licenses, driver’s licenses, hunting permits and weapon permits. Property records, such as deeds, assessments, foreclosures and liens may also contain personally identifiable information (PII).
Make the process faster and more effective
Identifying and locating lay and character witnesses can strengthen your case and add credibility to your client’s claim or defense. Records searches are an essential part of the process, and are available on the Internet; however, they may be limited in scope and the information available may be dated or lack validity. Alternatively, counsel can use technology, such as TLOxp®, part of the TransUnion TruLookup™ product line, to quickly search through thousands of comprehensive public, proprietary and business records in seconds.
TLOxp searches through billions of data points culled from more than 10,000 sources to help you get the job done quickly; saving hours, days or weeks identifying and locating witnesses.
For more information about how TLOxp can help you identify and locate witnesses, visit our page for legal professionals.