Saturday, April 26, 2008

Finding the Witnesses You Need

How do you find that ever elusive witness? The one who saw the accident but no one can find? The former employee who has first knowledge about the negotiations to a contract, whose last known phone number is disconnected? It’s time to start playing sleuth and tracking down the witnesses you need to prove your case. How? Consider the following.

Who are you looking for? First things first. You need to figure out who the relevant witnesses are. Ask your client for the names of everyone he knows who has or may have information about the case. Look at all the documents and see whom they reference as potential witnesses. Think of categories of witnesses who should have relevant information - eyewitnesses, investigators, foreman, supervisors, family, friends, neighbors - and then try to figure out whether any witnesses exist in any of these categories. Your first job is to compile a list of every potential available witness and then devise a game plan. Decide which witnesses you can and should locate, and think through how you are going to find them.

Let your fingers do the walking. Once you know whom to look for, do a white pages search on the internet for the witness. Chances are you’ll find their phone numbers and addresses with just a few taps on the keyboard.

Google them. If the white pages don’t produce fruit, do a Google search of the witnesses you are looking for. You may find their Myspace page, or their blog, or an article about them, or their high school reunion site - something with their contact information. With the internet, anonymity is hard to find.

Ask the other witnesses. One witness probably knows not only the names of other witnesses you’d be interested in interviewing, but how to reach them. Let your witnesses help you find other witnesses.

Review the documents. Just as you check with your witnesses, review your documents for potential contact information for other witnesses.

Knock on some doors. If phone calls are going unanswered, get in your car and go knock on some doors in hopes of finding those elusive witnesses.

Hire an investigator. If all else fails, hire an investigator to find that witness that you cannot. That’s what investigators do. If the witness is important enough, recommend to your client that he incur the cost of an investigator’s services to find that witness on whose testimony the case may turn.

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