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Dos and Don’ts When You Witness an Accident

Posted in Car Accidents on June 8, 2021

Knowing what to do after witnessing a car accident can be confusing. But in an accident’s aftermath, identifying several important “dos and don’ts” will help you keep calm, cool, and collected.

While the way you respond to seeing a car accident will depend on the crash’s severity and whether anyone has suffered injuries, the following are helpful guidelines to keep in mind. 

What to do When You Witness an Accident

Car Accident Witness Responsibilities

Here are five steps to take following an accident.

One— Make Sure You Are in a Safe Place

If you are a pedestrian, you must stay in pedestrian areas like sidewalks. Even medians and shoulders can be dangerous if traffic continues to pass by.

If you are a driver, pull your vehicle to the side of the road, at least 100 feet from the scene, and ensure rescue vehicles have room to navigate.

Turn on your flashers or distribute hazard markers and stay a safe distance from the scene unless you are rendering aid to victims.

If you are a driver and the accident is severe enough that the airbags deploy and the vehicle sustains substantial damage, cautiously exit the car to ascertain if you are injured and whether you can move your vehicle.

If your car engine generates smoke, odd smells, or fluids, leave the car and step away to a safe location.

Two—Call 911

If you are the first to the scene and are not sure if someone else has already called the police, dial 911 and report the accident.

Even if you are unsure of the extent of the injuries of the parties involved, if vehicle damage has taken place, the police will make a report. Give as much detail as you can regarding your location and the nature of the accident.

Three— Check on the Victims

When an eyewitness to an auto accident, if it’s safe to approach the accident scene, check on the crash victims to make sure they are okay.

Offer to help if you are able. But unless the vehicle is in danger of catching fire, do not move an injured person. Moving an injured victim can accidentally make their injuries worse.

Instead, provide comfort by reassuring injury victims that medical help is on the way.

If you were in a car accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if you feel okay. Some injuries take a while to present, and your peace of mind is worth making the trip to the doctor’s office.

If a driver, witness, police officer, or insurance adjuster tries to ask how you feel after the accident, do not answer before receiving a professional diagnosis. Instead, just say you’re unsure.

Four— Give a Statement and Provide Your Contact Information

As an eyewitness to an accident, you are in a unique position to help those involved by describing what you saw.

While the law does not obligate you to stay at the scene or give a statement, telling the police or the drivers involved in the crash what you saw could help clear up questions of liability and fault. Do not be nervous about giving a statement.

Simply describe what you saw. If you are willing to give your name, contact information, and a statement about the accident, injured victims may be able to use this during a personal injury claim to help them prove liability.

The information you have about the accident could be critical for investigators to piece together what happened.

Five—Cooperate with the Police

If you have chosen to stop and witnessed the accident itself, provide every detail you can to the police. Stay on the scene until your statement is complete and the police have released you to continue traveling.

Other Important Dos and Don’ts When You Witness an Accident

Aside from the five steps covered above, the following advice will help you protect your rights.

Things You Should Not Do at an Accident Scene

  • DON’T feel like you must stop. The law does not require you to stop at the scene of an accident. However, most people feel it is the right thing to do. If you are one of the first people to the scene of an accident, your assistance could be imperative for victims.
  • DON’T rush into the scene. Sometimes, your assistance will be helpful, but make sure you are not in danger of injury yourself due to broken glass and sharp metal. If you choose to enter the scene and render aid to victims, do so cautiously.
  • DON’T offer medical assistance unless necessary. Unless it is an emergency or a person’s well-being depends on it, Iit is best to wait for emergency personnel to arrive on the scene. You may accidentally make things worse for the victim if you move him or her the incorrect way. It often takes only a matter of minutes for EMTs to arrive, and most first aid situations can wait.
  • DON’T fear liability. In the event that the help has not arrived and someone is in urgent need of first aid you know you can handle, Texas has Good Samaritan laws in place. As long as you are rendering emergency aid in good faith, you are not likely to be liable for civil damages.
  • DON’T allow a driver to leave the scene without exchanging information. You do not need to physically restrain a driver – see the above note about keeping yourself safe – but it is good practice to jot down identifying characteristics and license plate numbers. If an at-fault driver attempts to leave the scene, you can remind them of the consequences of doing so and record their vehicle and license plate description.
  • DON’T speculate about fault if you are not sure who caused the accident. If you do decide to give a statement to someone at the scene of the accident, stick only to the facts as you know them. If you do not have the answer to a question, say so. Do not feel pressured to answer every question asked. Do not make guesses as to what happened or who is to blame. Answer the questions asked honestly and as completely as possible.
  • DON’T ignore a subpoena. A subpoena is a judge-issued document ordering you to appear in court. If an attorney needs you to testify about what you witnessed, he or she may subpoena you as a witness. Do not ignore a court subpoena. This is against the law and could lead to you being held in contempt of court. If this happens, you may face penalties such as fines and even jail time for ignoring the court’s requests.

Things You Should Do at an Accident Scene

  • DO offer other forms of assistance. Perhaps victims could use a kind word, a cell phone to call relatives or insurance companies, or a paper and pen to exchange information. Offer what you feel you would need if in the shoes of the victims.
  • DO pay special attention if it was a hit-and-run accident. If the accident you witnessed was a hit-and-run, your input as a witness can be even more vital. You might have seen something that enables police officers to find the culprit, such as the make or model of the at-fault driver’s vehicle, or a partial license plate number. Write down everything you can remember as soon as possible, while it is still fresh in your mind. Stay at the scene to speak to the police about what you saw. Offering your assistance to a hit-and-run victim by calling 911 and requesting an ambulance could also be important since the other driver did not stick around to do so.
  • DO exercise caution. Accident scenes are often tense situations. Property damage has occurred, and tempers and emotions can run high. While the presence of a witness may help keep emotions in check, be careful when inserting yourself into the situation. Keep your own safety in mind, primarily.
  • DO prepare to go to trial, if necessary. Agreeing to give a statement as an eyewitness could mean going to court if the accident victim’s case ends up at trial. While this is unlikely, prepare for this as a possibility if you give victims or the police your contact information. Witness testimony can be invaluable during a car accident case.
  • DO ask for help from an attorney. Staying and helping out at the scene of an accident in Texas is an honorable and brave thing to do. Do not be afraid to intervene and render assistance to those in need. If you end up getting involved in a personal injury lawsuit, turn to a lawyer for help with the legal process.

To Learn More, Speak To A Dallas Car Accident Attorney

Overall, many people choose to stop and help when they witness a car accident.

Keeping these tips in mind can help ensure you are doing what you can for the victims and police while keeping yourself safe from harm.

You are not necessarily a medical professional, a mechanic, or a police officer, but Good Samaritans can provide some help and may even save a life.

Just remember your own limitations and leave the tough work to the emergency personnel. To learn more speak to a Dallas car accident lawyer.