I’ve Just Witnessed A Car Accident; What Should I Do?
Last updated Thursday, February 11th, 2021
Witnessing a car accident is something most of us will experience at least once in our lives. When we do, we may instinctively want to help. It’s important to know how to do so safely, without putting our own lives, or the lives of others, in danger.
Knowing how to help, how to be a useful witness to the parties involved, and how to proceed safely is something more people should be familiar with. Here is what you should know about how to be an effective, helpful witness after a car accident.
What To Do If You Witness A Car Accident
Many people have been involved in small fender benders, but not everyone is familiar with what they should do when they witness a motor vehicle collision. Do you stop, or keep driving? Do you help the drivers? How should you proceed?
What do you do if you witness a car accident? Start with these six steps:
#1: Pull Over Safely
If you’re the nearest person to the crash, or the first person to witness it, pull over if you can do so safely. Stay 100 feet or more away from the scene of the accident. Turn on your emergency flasher lights so other drivers and emergency vehicles can easily spot the accident.
#2: Call 9-1-1
Call 9-1-1. Tell them the nature of the accident and be prepared to give location information. They will want to know the nearest cross street, so look around and determine this as soon as you can.
If you’re on an interstate or highway, check for the nearest on- or off-ramp or the closest milepost. They will also ask how many people need help and whether you can determine if they are conscious and breathing, bleeding, or have a pulse. If the person is conscious and walking around, they may ask if they are coherent.
#3 Only Render Care If Asked To
Do not attempt to move an injured person unless they are in imminent danger. The danger may be from fire or if they are lying in the path of oncoming traffic. Attempting to move an accident victim can cause further injury, so only do this if you have no other choice.
Do not render aid unless the operators ask you to do so or you are qualified; your actions may not be the right next step. If the operator does ask if you are willing to render emergency care, make sure you know your rights.
#4: Move Vehicles
You may be able to help move disabled vehicles out of traffic lanes if you are able to do so. Do not attempt to drive the vehicle yourself.
#5: Document The Scene
You may be of service to emergency personnel and to the victims if you are able to safely take a few photos of the accident scene. Get contact information so you can get the pics to the people who will need them later.
#6: Be Safe
As always, take care not to become a victim yourself. Curious onlookers sometimes get too close to accident scenes and others may come upon them too quickly to stop in time or to notice you. Keep a safe distance from the road and other hazards.
How To Deal With Witnessing A Fatal Car Accident
What do you do if you witness a car accident that proves fatal for the victim?
While most people will want to help those affected, you should also take care of your own mental state after the incident. Consider doing the following after this traumatic experience:
- Give a witness statement to a police officer on the scene.
- Offer your contact information to the next of kin.
- Talk to your pastor, doctor, or a therapist about the incident.
FAQs: If You Witness A Car Accident
What Do You Do If You Witness A Car Accident?
If you witness a car accident, you should be prepared to stop, call 9-1-1, lend assistance, and give your contact information and witness statement to those at the scene.
- Did you see the accident occur and can provide insight on how it happened?
If so, consider stopping to give your contact information to the relevant parties or call the non-emergency police line to see how you can put a statement about the accident on record.
- Did you come across the accident after it occurred and there is already help on the scene?
If so, there isn’t much you could provide in terms of the help or a witness statement at this time. The best thing you can do is remove yourself from the immediate area.
- Did you come across the accident after it occurred, and there is no one who stopped to help?
If so, immediately dial 9-1-1 to report the accident and check if anyone needs immediate assistance. From there, review the six steps outlined earlier in this article to see what you can do to assist safely.
How Do I Find Witnesses In A Car Accident?
If you were in a car accident, the best place to find witnesses is at the scene of the accident. But it might not always be possible to gather statements or information at the scene.
- At The Scene
Use your smartphone to record an eyewitness account at the scene if possible. At the very least, collect witness’ contact information so you can reach them later.
- Visit The Scene
If your accident happened in a public area, return to the scene and ask business owners or people who live in the area if they were witnesses to the accident.
- Check The Police Report
Even if you were unable to gather statements or witness information on the day of the incident, it is possible that those who called in the accident are on file in the report.
- Ask The Witnesses
Was anyone else with the witnesses you are already in contact with? Ask them if there are additional parties who might be able to corroborate what happened.
Can A Witness Come Forward After An Accident?
Yes. A witness can come forward after an accident even if they did not originally give a statement to the parties involved or the police at the scene. Often, third-party eyewitnesses do not realize what they saw could be valuable information.
If a witness finds out more information is needed about an accident and they agree to give a statement, their statement can be included in the deliberation. There is a chance their credibility will be lessened due to any time that has passed since the incident, but the jury and judge will be the ones making that determination.
How Should You Behave In Case You See An Accident?
Seeing an accident can be a very scary thing, so it is understandable if you don’t know how to behave. The primary thing you need to remember is to stay calm but helpful.
Calling 9-1-1, taking photographs of the collision scene, giving your information to the appropriate parties, and ensuring help is on the way are all actionable ways you can react to a car accident.
After you leave the scene of the car accident, it might be beneficial to talk with a doctor or therapist about what you witnessed.
Can A Relative Be A Witness In A Car Accident?
It is possible for a relative to be a first-person or a third-party eyewitness in a car accident situation. They may be the only ones who observed what happened.
While a relative can be a witness it is important to remember they have a personal stake in the outcome of the case. Their testimony could be treated as less credible than others.
A good car accident lawyer like those at Skaug Law will be able to help you determine if the testimony from a relative is likely to be beneficial or damaging to your overall case. You should work with your law team to make this decision.
Witnessing A Car Accident: The Aftermath
Just as the effects of a car accident are not truly over when the accident ends, those who are witnesses to a car accident may continue to be involved in the situation for months or even years to come.
If you are witness to an accident, remember to remain calm yet helpful. Providing first aid should only be done if it is an emergency or requested by emergency operators. Witnesses who decide to offer first aid victims should be familiar with local laws. Idaho’s Good Samaritan Law offers immunity for persons offering first aid for victims. Oregon’s Good Samaritan law is slightly different, and can be viewed here.
For more information on this subject and what services are offered by our law firm for car accident personal injury cases, you can contact the attorneys at Skaug Law.