What Should I Do When I Witness a Car Accident?
Witnessing a car accident can be horrific and traumatizing, especially if the accident was fatal. Typically, we see car accidents after emergency teams have already come to the aid of the victims and police officers have begun clearing debris. However, there is always a first witness, and there may come a time that the first witness is you.
It can be easy to freeze up in these situations and not know how to help. Many people may fear they’ll make injuries worse if they try to help the victims. Others are afraid they will face legal repercussions if they try to interfere. Luckily, there are laws in place protecting good Samaritans from legal backlash in emergencies.
Step One: Ensure Your Own Safety First
Similar to the way a flight attendant instructs you to put on your own air mask before helping others, the first rule when you witness a car crash is to ensure your own safety first. You won’t be any help to anyone if you also sustain an injury. If you’re driving when you witness a crash, pay attention to the roadway around you and pull over slowly and safely. Leave enough distance between yourself and the crashed vehicle(s) to ensure your safety from broken glass, flames, and leaked fuel.
Step Two: Call 9-1-1
Before you do anything else, stop and call 9-1-1. Never assume someone else on the scene has already called. The police need to know about any car accident on the roadway to come to the aid of those in need, provide traffic services, and clear debris away. Let the operator know the location of the accident, the number of people and vehicles involved, and other details you can recall about the collision. Tell them if it is a life-or-death situation or if the passengers appear to be okay.
Step Three: Check on the Victims
Carefully approach the scene of the accident once you make sure it’s safe. Check on the state of the victims and offer help to those in need if you are able. Do not move any injured person unless he or she is in immediate danger – for example, if the vehicle may catch fire. If you have to move an injured person, try to secure their head and neck before moving them.
If you unintentionally make injuries worse, it can be emotionally taxing – but you may have saved a person’s life. California’s Good Samaritan laws state that a victim cannot hold you liable for damages unless your actions constitute gross negligence or willful misconduct. Wait with the victims and assure them that help is on the way until emergency personnel arrive. Stand aside and let trained medical professionals help the victims.
Step Four: Give a Statement and Contact Information
If you witnessed the accident take place, you are an eyewitness and can help the victim(s) receive compensation from a negligent party. Provide relevant facts about the accident to police and give your contact information should they need to get in touch with you. Be as nonjudgmental and factual as you can be about the accident. Your quick thinking, calmness, and clarity during an emergency can go a long way toward helping victims heal and recover.
Step Five: Contact an Attorney if Necessary
If you witnessed a car accident as an involved party in the accident, you may need to hire an attorney to represent you in court. If you sustained a personal injury in a car accident – as a witness or as an involved party – you may be able to obtain financial compensation for your medical bills, pain, and suffering. For legal advice on what you can expect as a witness of a car accident, contact Liljegren Law Group today.