SINGAPORE – Mr. Gary Leong was nine years old when his then-15-year-old sister was wheelchair-bound for a year after an accident.
Desperate to track down the guilty and get hold of it, he and his mother spent hours flyers at the scene of the accident and even offered a cash reward to convince witnesses to come forward to give information.
But no one did it.
Leong, 29, told The Straits Times: "Back then, I thought, if there was only one platform on the internet to make our lives easier, to be more efficient and cost-effective, and also to reach more people."
His wish to connect accident victims with people who witnessed the traffic accident urged him to create an online portal. After two years of development, he launched SearchWitness in February of this year.
He said it has since compared more than 100 victims in Singapore with witnesses.
"We want to let accident victims know that FindWitness is a post-accident hub and we also work with a panel of lawyers who provide free legal advice to the victims," he said.
Mr. Leong has a handful of employees and more than 100 volunteers, including charitable staff and law firms, who help him.
Victims of accidents and witnesses must register on the website, where they fill in the details of the accident, such as the date, time and location. Witnesses then send their videos & # 39; s or photos to the website.
Since the launch, he said that about 1,000 videos & photos & # 39; s were posted to FindWitness.
Witnesses can choose to deliver the videos & photos to "public content" – where the proof will be posted on the Facebook page of FindWitness – or "private content," meaning the evidence exclusively for SearchWitness.
For public content, they can be paid between $ 150 and $ 350 depending on the number of received views in three days.
In the case of private content, accident data is displayed in the program of the website that searches for an agreement. If the evidence is linked to a victim of an accident, witnesses can earn about $ 500 to $ 2,500 for uploading the evidence.
Mr. Leong works with a panel of more than 10 lawyers to determine how useful the evidence is. FindWitness then determines the value of the evidence that victims will pay to gain access.
FindWitness takes about 10 percent of the victims as commission.
"The amount paid by the victims can be offset by their accident claims in the legal proceedings, and it can help their case," said Mr Leong.
"Our team will carry out the details of the accident through our database and see if there is a match." Once we have determined that there is a match, we call the victim to see the evidence.If they think the evidence is useful and they are willing to pay they get the proof. & # 39;
"Sometimes our employees will also call victims for more information to ensure a greater chance of a match and to also detect witnesses on social media."
He said he will hand over the evidence to the police when they ask for it.
Criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam, managing director of Hilborne Law, said that evidence of video "s or photo" s submitted by witnesses "may be questionable with regard to admissibility".
"Because if an accident happens and there is traffic police or a police photographer in the field, their evidence gets weight and credibility, but if the footage is taken by a third party, it does not necessarily have to tell the whole story."
But Mr. Leong said that the evidence helped FindWitness. He mentioned a case in which a motorcyclist was knocked down by a car that was driven too close to him.
"The rider did not know what was going on because the impact was from behind and when he woke up he was already in hospital without a reminder," he said.
"A witness sent dashboards with camera images of the accident and our system warned us that there was a match."
He said the motorist claimed during a lawsuit that the motorcyclist had cut his job, but with evidence of FindWitness the victim won the case.
FindWitness also wants to reach taxi drivers and construction workers.
It works with groups that support foreign employees such as Singapore Accident Help Center (SGAHC) and organizes workshops and events to inform them about the online platform.
"This platform is capable of helping victims find workplace accidents to help their business, and for witnessing to upload them to earn another source of income."
Witnesses can choose to donate their money reward to SGAHC, a non-profit organization that provides legal advice to accident victims.
The next step is the launch of the mobile FindWitness app, which will be available on Apple and Android at the end of August.
Mr. Leong said he is aware that some people may dispute the problem that payment is made when connecting victims of accidents and witnesses.
He stressed, however, that it is not about profit, but about running SearchWitness, he said, adding that it is a registered company.
"It is my full-time job and I also have staff to pay," he said.
"FindWitness is a company with a social purpose, where we want people to come forward and ensure that the truth comes to light."