We’ve all experienced the headache of a traffic jam caused by a car accident. Perhaps you’ve even had to deal with stress or physical injuries from actually being in a wreck. But have you ever witnessed a car accident?
In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to know what to do (and what not to do) when you witness a car accident. Here are some tips to follow if you do see a wreck.
What to Do if You Witness a Car Accident
Legally, you are not required to stop when you witness a car accident. However, if you are a medical professional or off-duty law enforcement, you may be able to provide invaluable assistance. Even if you are not in either profession, when you witness a car accident you can also provide the drivers with key information to establish liability and help an injured party who pursues legal action after the car accident. It is your choice whether to stop and offer aid when you see a car accident. If many other witnesses have already chosen to pull over, you may even decide to continue on and prevent further traffic congestion.
Pull Over Safely
The first thing to do if you witness a car accident is to pull over safely to the side of the road along with the cars involved in the accident. You don’t want to contribute more to the congestion sure to follow the wreck — or even cause another car accident — so be sure that you are not blocking the roadway in any way. Also leave space for police cars, tow trucks, and emergency vehicles near the site of the accident. Medical professionals and law enforcement will need quick, easy access to the scene — don’t get in their way! If you are asked to move or to leave by law enforcement, comply.
Call the Police & 911 if Necessary
The next step if you witness a car accident? Safely assess whether any parties involved in the accident are injured without putting yourself in harm’s way. If there are injuries, call 911 and give your exact location to the authorities. If there are no injuries and the parties involved in the car accident have not yet done so, be sure to call the police to report the wreck,
It is important that you do not attempt to give medical aid to the injured parties. Depending on where you are when you witness a car accident, you may not be protected by Good Samaritan laws — even if you are a medical professional. This means that you could legally be held negligent if you cause injury to someone in the course of trying to assist them. Do not attempt to move the injured parties, lest you cause them further injury.
Warn Oncoming Traffic
After you witness a car accident, you are not legally obligated to stop or direct traffic, but this might be helpful depending on the location of the accident on the roadway. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can help direct the flow of cars. If it is dark, grab a flashlight from your emergency kit and use that to guide traffic. If you are using your headlights to light up the scene of the accident, avoid your brights or fog lights, as they could cause further accidents. When law enforcement arrives, let them take over and direct traffic.
Offer Contact Information
You should first offer your contact information to all drivers involved in the car accident. Write down your name and phone number and any relevant information about the car accident. After you give your information to the drivers, jot down facts about the car accident, including what you witnessed in great detail and who was at fault (if that can be determined); the license plate numbers and vehicle makes and models of the involved parties; and the date, time, location, weather, and road conditions at the time of the accident. Keeping these details fresh in your mind will help you make a thorough statement once the police arrive, which in turn will help law enforcement determine fault.
Once police arrive, again provide them with your contact information and make your statement about the car accident. Depending on where the car accident occurs, you may be asked to make a statement at a later time or to provide a written statement — in these cases your notes about the car accident will be quite useful. Be sure to stay out of the way of law enforcement and emergency crews until they ask to speak with you. Once you have met with them and they indicate that you can leave, do so as soon as possible.
Injured in a Car Accident?
If you are injured in a car accident, experienced Kansas City attorney Daniel C. Miller can help you receive the compensation you deserve. Call Daniel today at (816) 875-0470 to discuss your car accident and your legal options.