At some point in your life, you’ve probably been given the basic rundown of what to do if you’re involved in a car accident. You’re not always told what you should do if you’re a witness to someone else’s accident, however.
Witnesses to car accidents play a very important role. They’re often the first people able to respond if the parties in the car accident are injured and unable to call for help themselves. Both law enforcement and insurance companies also rely to a great deal on what witnesses report to determine what action they should take after an accident.
If you’re not directly involved in a car accident, you’re under no legal obligation to stop or to act as a witness. You can think of it as a civic duty or “good samaritan” deed, however. Someday, you might be involved in a similar accident, and would hope that the people around you would help you to get assistance and provide testimony so that your insurance company paid you fairly.
Keep the following in mind if you happen to witness an auto accident:
- Safety First
Take care of your personal safety first, and avoid contributing to the crash or creating a new hazard in the road. Stay at a safe distance until you are sure it is safe to approach. If you are going to check to see if someone needs medical attention, first find a safe place to park, and be sure to turn your hazard lights on before exiting the vehicle. Also be wary of environmental hazards as you approach, like shattered glass from windshields and downed power lines if someone hit a pole or tree.
- Check On The Victims And Call For Help
Unless you know CPR or have medical training, it’s best not to attempt to intervene with anyone who is injured. Instead, call 911 for an ambulance and describe the condition of the victims, and if they are conscious reassure them that medical help is en route. Simply being present and speaking to them calmly can help by lowering their stress levels.
- Aid In Securing The Scene
If you have road flares, or something like an emergency cone on hand, it is OK to deploy these in the road to alert oncoming traffic of the accident. Just be sure to check for liquids in the area before using a road flare or anything that involves a lighter. If you aren’t absolutely certain the liquid is water, refrain from lighting anything as it may be flammable.
- Take Photos
If the victims are unable to photograph the scene, you might consider doing it for them once they are stabilized and the area is secured. Photos taken immediately in the wake of the accident can be very helpful during insurance claims investigations.
- Wait For The Police And Medical Personnel
If an ambulance was called, most likely that will arrive first. Even if the police take longer to show up, however, it’s helpful to wait for them and add your eyewitness testimony to their report. If you don’t mind being called by an insurance investigator later, you can also offer your contact information to the parties involved.