Do you know what steps to take if you’re witness to a car accident? The severity of the situation will ultimately trigger your response. If you are a witness to any accident, you should always do the following:
Find a Safe Place
Whether you witnessed the accident while driving or walking on the sidewalk, make sure you are in a safe location. If you are in a vehicle, pull over where it is safe for your vehicle. Once you have found a safe location, place the car in park and keep your Hazard lights on. If you are a pedestrian, be sure you are within a safe distance from the vehicles and oncoming traffic. Also, if any of the vehicles involved in the accident are leaking fluid, do not approach them.
Always Call 911
Even if there are multiple bystanders, you should never assume that someone called 911. Try to assess your surroundings in order to provide helpful information to the 911 operator. This includes location, landmarks, parties or vehicles involved, or any other details that may be relevant.
Communicate with the Victims and Analyze the Injuries
You should remain cool and calm. If you find yourself panicking as a response to what you witnessed, take a moment to calm down. You should communicate with the parties involved and ask if they are okay. It is important to notify them that the authorities are on their way to assist them. If a person is injured, you should never move them (unless you are qualified). Moving an injured party could potentially worsen the injury, and you could be held liable for your contribution to the victim’s injuries.
Give Them Space
Witnessing a car accident may be stressful, but being involved in the accident is far worse. Be sure to give the victims space and allow them to talk individually amongst each other. When authorities and paramedics arrive, give them ample space to help the victims.
Provide a Statement
Once authorities and medical treatment have arrived and treated the victims, they will likely ask for a statement. If you are able to remain on the scene until then, be sure to provide an accurate description of what you saw or heard. If you are unable to remain on the scene, give your information to the authorities and let them know you will be available to make a statement if necessary. It is important to know, by giving a statement you may be contacted and available to comment on your statement by Police Officers, Insurance Agents, or Medical Authorities. Always remain truthful of what you saw and be sure your statements are consistent.
If Comfortable, Share your Information
Witnesses an accident can give you an opportunity to help those involved far after the cars are towed and the fire trucks leave. Oftentimes a liability dispute can arise where an independent witness can help solve causation issues. If you feel so included, share your name and phone number with the party you believe was not at fault, in case it’s needed for an insurance claim later. Just because police arrive to a scene of an accident does not always mean a report (with possible witness statements) will be made.
Accidents happen all too frequently in our community, so be prepared to know what to do if you witness one. You could be a big help to a neighbor in need when they aren’t having their best day.
– – This blog was written by Ivana Torres, intern and marketing assistant at Bonnici Law Group. She is currently a second year Law Student. She is a California native, born and raised in Bakersfield. When she is not studying or working, she enjoys trying new restaurants or recipes.