After witnessing a car accident, your observations could prove vital in helping the injured person obtain compensation. Accidents happen every day, and you never know how your testimony may help someone who needs it. Continue reading to learn the proper steps to take if you witness a car accident, as well as what you should avoid doing at the scene.
If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident, an experienced auto accident lawyers at Langdon & Emison is standing by to review your case and to discuss how to help you.
1. Ensure Your Safety First
You are under no obligation to help following a car accident, but you could save someone’s life if you do. It’s essential that you are in a safe location and position to be an effective witness. To help ensure your safety and the safety of others, you should follow these tips:
- Leave space for emergency vehicles to access the accident
- Turn on your hazard lights
- Pull over to the shoulder or safe side street
- Park a safe distance away from the accident and traffic
- Don’t stand in the roadway
- If possible, use existing infrastructure to protect you from other vehicles (for example, standing behind a guardrail or on a pedestrian bridge)
- Only enter the scene of the accident if the scene itself is safe. NEVER approach a vehicle that has smoke or sparks coming from the engine. If you do notice smoke, sparks, or other signs of impending vehicle fire, call 911 immediately.
2. Call 911 Even if You Think Someone Already Might Have
After you’ve reached a position of safety, call 911. Although you might assume that an involved party or another witness might have already called the police, it’s not always the case. The only way to ensure that the police have been notified of the accident if they’re not already on scene is to call yourself–your call could be the life-saving call a victim needs.
The dispatcher will need the most important information first so that they can dispatch emergency personnel right away. The dispatcher will need and might ask for the following information:
- The location of the accident. This might include the road and the direction of travel, an exact address, or a description of nearby identifiers such as nearby exits, businesses, a mileage marker, etc.
- How many vehicles are involved.
- Any immediate life-threatening information such as any vehicle or vegetation fires, if a car has gone off the road, etc.
- If the roadway is blocked by the accident
- If it’s safe to access the vehicles, the dispatcher might ask you to check the status of the vehicle passengers to report the status of their injuries
3. Help Stabilize the Scene
For everyone’s safety, the scene needs to be stabilized and made as safe as possible. If possible, safely move the vehicles to the shoulder to limit the possibility of additional accidents and injury. If the cars can’t be moved, have the vehicles put in “park” and turn off the engines to prevent them from rolling away.
4. Offer Help if The Victims Need it
If you are a trained medical professional such as a physician, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, or trained EMT, you may render emergency care or assistance to the accident victims without liability for civil damages. Under Missouri Law RSMO Section 537.037, an individual certified in first aid may also provide emergency care or assistance to accident victims to the extent or level of their training without fear of legal liability.
If you are not a trained medical professional or if you don’t have certified first aid training, it’s suggested that you don’t provide any medical aid or care to victims of a car accident as it could lead to further harm to the victims and you could be liable for their additional harm and damages.
5. Give a Statement to the Police
When police and emergency responders arrive on the scene, allow them time to assess and secure the scene and all victims. Upon their arrival, they might ask you for updated information on the status of the victims, but if they don’t ask for your input or involvement, stand by and allow them to do their jobs.
Emergency personnel will likely go to you when they’re ready to receive the complete information about what you witnessed.
It’s important to be honest and only relay the facts without assigning blame to any party. Provide the officers an objective description of what you witnessed and respond to any questions they ask.
Generally they’ll inquire about the directions of the vehicles, their speeds, whether you saw any violations of traffic laws or prohibited activities, or if there were any environmental factors such as a deer or other animal crossing into the road.
The statement you give the police could be an imperative part of their investigation and any future court or insurance actions to recover damages.
Remember, you could be deposed or called as a witness in court to testify to what you witnessed, so it’s important to be as honest and objective as possible in providing your account of what happened.
What NOT to do as a Witness to a Car Accident
You are under no obligation to do anything if you’ve witnessed an accident. If you make the decision to help, it’s important to ensure that you don’t put yourself at risk.
1. Don’t Move an Injured Person
Moving an injured person as an untrained medical professional absent an immediate risk or danger could lead to greater injury and could expose you to legal liability for any resulting injuries. The only circumstance under which you should try to move an injured person if you are not a trained medical professional is if there’s an immediate threat to the victim’s life.
For example, if the vehicle is on fire, the risk of further injury is preferred over the sure risk of death. You may move a victim under such a scenario without incurring legal liability.
2. Don’t Get Involved in Arguments Between Drivers or Passengers
The drivers and passengers involved in the accident will likely be upset, and they might become aggressive or violent toward one another or any witnesses who involve themselves. Do not get involved in any arguments they might be having. Instead, simply take down vehicle information for all involved cars, take any photos that you can (safely), and report the rest to the police.
Our experienced auto accident attorneys can help if you’ve been involved in or witnessed a car accident.
We hope that any witness to a car accident follows the steps we’ve outlined above, especially in one involving you or a loved one. If you’ve been in a car accident, it’s important that you contact Langdon & Emison right away–our team of experienced auto accident lawyers are ready and waiting to see how we can help you.
Hiring an attorney doesn’t have to be a scary and mysterious process, which is why we offer a free initial consultation to answer any questions you might have. During your consultation we’ll review the basic facts about your car accident and injuries, and if we decide we can help on your case, explain how the process works and answer any questions you might have. Call us today at (866) 931-2115, or contact us through our website to schedule your free consultation.