Victim impact statements are a vital part of the legal system. They allow crime victims to make their voices heard, and they can help both judges and juries better understand the harm done by a crime.
If you’re an accident victim, it’s important to know how to write a victim impact statement after a car accident. A well-written victim impact statement can influence your case’s outcome and help you obtain compensation for your injury.
What Are Car Accident Victim Impact Statements?
These are statements by victims of car accidents to help the court understand how an accident has affected their lives, and they can be very influential in court proceedings.
Victim impact statements are not required, but they can play a significant role in determining how much money you receive in damages or other compensation after a car accident.
It’s essential to think carefully about these documents because they will become public records if used as evidence at trial.
Why Are Victim Impact Statements Helpful?
Victim impact statements are a way to show the court how your life has been affected by an accident.
This can help judges consider whether or not your injuries were severe enough to require compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
When writing victim impact statements, you need to be honest about how much pain and suffering you’ve experienced since your accident occurred.
When Is a Victim Impact Statement Used?
A victim impact statement is usually used in criminal court proceedings and may help the judge to decide how severe the punishment should be for the perpetrator.
A victim’s lawyer often reads victim impact statements aloud during a plea hearing. They can also be referred to in sentencing hearings if you were injured during an accident due to someone else’s negligence or carelessness (for example, if someone hit you with their car while drunk).
The judge can also use victim impact letters in an appeal hearing. They may be submitted as evidence when deciding whether anything needs to change regarding verdicts/sentences given previously — even without discovering new facts.
How Do You Write a Victim Impact Statement?
The short answer is: be brief but be honest. The victim impact statement allows you to share your experience and thoughts about the crash in a way that won’t be considered a part of the trial.
However, it’s still important to focus on what happened to you after the accident. This may include physical pain and suffering, emotional trauma from witnessing someone else getting hurt or killed, time off work due to injuries sustained in the crash (if applicable), loss of wages because of time off work, and so on.
Some things can help make this easier when writing your statement:
- Keep things short and sweet by sticking with only those details relevant to how this incident has affected your (or another person’s) life in general terms only. No need for unnecessary information, which would likely distract from showing strong emotions during sentencing proceedings later down the road.
- Ask friends/family members’ opinions. Try asking someone close whether they see anything missing from what’s written so far.
- Use templates if necessary. Sometimes handwritten letters aren’t always best suited for conveying important messages like these. Consider following a template derived from previous cases.
What You Should Include in a Car Accident Victim Statement
If you want to thoroughly describe an accident’s effect on your life, it’s crucial to include all aspects of your life in this document. This includes:
- The physical injuries you sustained from the crash,
- The emotional trauma caused by those injuries,
- The financial difficulties stemming from those same physical injuries (such as lost wages),
- How these things affected family members and friends close to you,
- Any professional setbacks due to being unable to work after being injured, and
- How social events are affected by pain or discomfort related to your injury.
How Long Should the Statement Be?
Your victim impact statement should be no longer than five minutes. It must be delivered clearly and concisely.
If you can’t get your message across in that amount of time, try practicing your speech until you’ve mastered how to say what needs to be said in a timely manner.
Valuable Tips for Writing a Victim Impact Statement
- Be honest and detailed.
- Be specific about the accident’s impact on your life, including your job, finances, hobbies, and long-term plans.
- Include information about other people who were affected by this accident, too — not just yourself.
- Don’t write about your feelings — anger and frustration won’t get you anywhere if the judge thinks you’re being too emotional or unreasonable.
- Don’t use vulgar or unstable language in your statement — for judges are not interested in hearing obscenities if they have nothing constructive to add.
Takeaways on Victim Impact Statements
A well-written victim impact statement can be a powerful tool in the hands of an experienced attorney. As with any legal document, its importance is in the information it provides and how you convey that information.
Victim impact statements provide information about how the victim was affected by the crime and can be used to support a claim for compensation or punitive damages. An experienced attorney will know how to use this information to their advantage and ensure that your case receives the attention it deserves. Please contact our Greenville personal injury firm to ensure you receive the help you deserve.
Victim Impact Statement FAQs
Can you make a victim impact statement at a defendant’s parole hearing?
When an offender completes their time in prison, they are required to go through a parole hearing. During this time, victims can submit an impact statement to express their thoughts on the offender, the offense, and its consequences.
Does a victim impact statement make a difference?
Victim impact statements can help victims obtain compensation, make defendants accountable for their actions, and make defendants more aware of the consequences of their actions.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.