Witnessing an Accident: Things you Should Know
You are driving along, obeying traffic laws and staying alert for any signs of trouble, when the car in front of you attempts to pass the vehicle in front of them and when pulling back into their lane, they strike the front fender of the car they are trying to pass, both cars lose control and go off the road, one of them rolling over twice.
You are horrified but, seeing this about to happen, have slowed your speed down considerably to avoid putting yourself in danger. Now you have to make a split second decision-do I pull over and offer assistance or just drive on by the accident scene. Most states do not have any law that states you must stop and render aid as long as you had no part in the accident. In other words, you cannot be sued for driving on.
You may feel, however, a moral issue is at stake. What if it were you or someone you know in one of those cars? Wouldn’t you want someone to offer aid? So you pull into the area of the accident, turn on your hazard lights, make sure you are safely off the road, have left room for emergency vehicles and kept a safe distance in case of an explosion. All this has happened in a matter of seconds!
Call 911 immediately and give the approximate location of the accident, cars involved and what you observed. You want help to be on the way as soon as possible. Exit your car only if you feel that it is safe to do so and approach the scene with caution. If you feel the area is safe to approach, check on any victims of the accident, but, under no circumstances attempt to move them unless there is the risk of the car catching fire.
Try and give comfort to those who need it until help arrives. If there is still an engine running and the driver is able, instruct them to turn it off to minimize the risk of explosion from spilled gasoline, coolant or other fluids.
Once the authorities have arrived, give your name and any contact information they may need. In the days or weeks after an accident, you may be contacted by attorneys, medical personnel or insurance agents. It will help you if, after recounting what you observed at the accident scene to the police officers in an unbiased manner, you later write it all down when you are calmer to keep the facts fresh in your mind.
After the chaos of the accident and your stress level has come down, you may remember pertinent facts that you didn’t think of at the time you gave your statement. Your commitment to stop at the scene, render aid and comfort and call for assistance, along with your honest testimony can make a huge difference in the outcome for all concerned.