What Should I Do If I Witness A Car Accident?
Most people want to do the right thing and be of assistance when they witness an accident. However, it’s easy to get confused in the chaos of a crash scene, and doing the wrong thing can even result in someone getting hurt. If you’re unsure of how to help, here’s what you should do if you witness an accident.
Get to safety
It’s important to get yourself out of the way of any potential hazards first. Make sure your car is out of the wat by stopping on the shoulder at least 100 feet away from where the accident took place. This will keep you away from any flames, broken glass, fuel leaks, or other dangers. It will also leave room for emergency vehicles so they don’t have to maneuver around your car to get to the injured victims.
Many accidents occur when people park their cars and get out to respond to another accident. Make sure other drivers can see you in the minutes before first responders arrive. Keep your hazard lights on. Wear reflective gear if you have any in your car emergency preparedness kit. Stay out of the roadway if you possibly can.
Don’t assume anyone else has already called emergency services. The people involved in the accident might be unconscious or panicking, which might result in a delayed 911 call – a major problem if there’s a serious injury where every minute counts. Briefly describe the accident, where it happened, and how many cars or victims were involved. Answer the operator’s questions and try to remain calm so that information can be obtained and routed as quickly as possible.
Assisting Injured Persons
One of the most important things you ever do could be helping an injured person after a serious accident. However, it’s not uncommon for accident victims to be further injured by someone who ‘just is trying to help.’ Help out a victim if they are asking you to, but do not move an unconscious person or someone who is severely injured. If the victim has a spinal injury, you can complicate their injuries if you move them without the proper training that EMTs possess. Only if the victim is in imminent danger (for example, if the car is on fire) should you attempt to move them. Leave them where they are and try to keep them calm. Let them know police and ambulance are on the way and that you’ll stay with them until emergency services arrive.
Get drivers to put their cars in park and turn off their engines if they can. This will reduce the risk of fire or other emergencies.
Take Pictures to Document the Accident Scene
Photos of the scene of an accident are deeply valuable to the parties involved because they serve as evidence of what happened and the severity of the crash. Unfortunately, when people are injured, they are unable to take the photos they need. Witnesses can help by taking photos of the damage to all vehicles involved, the scene of the accident, any injuries, stoplights or signs, or anything else that might be pertinent to an investigation. Err on the side of caution and photograph anything that you think might be relevant. Be aware of your surroundings as you take pictures to make sure you’re not stepping into harm’s way or getting in the path of first responders.
Offer the photos to the police and the parties involved. It might be tempting to Snapchat the scene of the accident or post some of the photos on other sites, but it’s best not to do this.
Speak To Police Officers
It’s common for witnesses to leave as soon as the police arrive. At this point, there may seem to be little reason for you stick around. However, your statement to the police is a piece of evidence that is just as important as photos, because you’re a neutral party who can testify to the facts. Stay at the scene long enough to give a statement to police and don’t leave until the responding officers tell you that you can go. Leave your contact information so they can reach you later about the crash.
A good witness is invaluable both at the scene of an accident (when the injured may need immediate help), and in the aftermath (when victims are trying to determine who was at fault). While these tips seem obvious now, it’s easy to forget them in the heat of the moment at a crash scene. The most basic advice that anyone should be able to remember is to do what you can to make sure everyone is safe, and when in doubt, wait for emergency services to arrive.
If you were injured at the scene of an accident while trying to render aid, or have general questions about how best to be of assistance at an accident scene, please contact us today so that we can answer your questions, discuss your case, and determine your next course of action. We can be reached by phone or email.
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