What is a Credible Witness?

Felicia Dye

Witnesses can be essential to the outcome of a court case. This does not mean, however, that all witnesses will benefit the parties on whose behalf they testify. One thing that can render a person's testimony useless is lack of credibility. A credible witness is a person whose testimony is worthy of belief. Factors that can affect credibility include honesty, professional experience, and knowledge.

A witness taking an oath to tell the truth before giving testimony.
A witness taking an oath to tell the truth before giving testimony.

Character can play an important role in determining credibility. When a person provides testimony, it is important to determine how she acquired the information. For a person's testimony to be considered worthy of belief, there generally needs to be assurance that the person is honest. Such a conclusion can be difficult to reach if, for example, a person has knowledge of an event because she was a participant in illicit activities or if she has a reputation for dishonest practices.

A credible witness is a person who is competent. This means that he should know what he is talking about. In many cases, competent testimony results from witnessing an event.

The credibility of an eye witness can be enhanced if she has no connection to either party. For example, a lady who is walking down the street and observes a car accident is likely to be more credible than the friends who are riding with the drivers. This is because the most credible witnesses are those who have nothing to lose or to gain and those who have no reason to give deceiving testimony.

Dishonesty and incompetence are not the only reasons that a person may not be a credible witness. The reason could be that a person is not qualified to provide certain information. For some testimonies, the credibility of the witnesses is determined by their knowledge of specific topics or by their professional experience. For example, arguments in a case about the adverse effects of certain salon products may best supported by licensed cosmetologists and medical professionals. The testimonies of random consumers of the product are likely to be less credible.

A credible witness does not always need to have first-hand knowledge of the incident that is being argued in court. The example above provides an example of instances when this is not necessary. It also shows that not all testimony is based on facts. Expert or industry-based testimony is often based on opinions and generalities that can be used to support or disprove claims made by the parties of a case.

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Discussion Comments


That's what lawyers are for. Never, ever, for any reason, deal directly with your insurance company if you are not at fault. Sounds like you need to seek legal advice.


I have just been told I was at fault in a car accident that by diagram was not my fault, but because the other party had a witness who appeared out of thin air next day but was not at the scene of accident, I have lost my case with my insurance company.

My concern is that the witness may be a nice person, but may also know the other party and this is totally unfair to my case and driving record, namely because the other party is a learner driver driving his grandfather's car! What can i do? This is so unfair and I feel cheated by the system. Thank God it was not a major accident. The system is wrong, particularly because my insurance company should have done more for me!

The premium is all important, not the legality.

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