Car accidents are jarring spectacles. Witnessing an accident, or coming on the scene shortly after one occurs, can be a nerve-wracking experience that might leave you worried and wondering what to do. Should you provide assistance? Do you have any legal obligations? Can you get in trouble if you do the wrong thing? Because these are real questions with potentially serious consequences, it’s time to talk a little about what you should do if you ever witness a car accident.
First of all, the most important thing to do is remain calm. Yes, that’s easier said than done. However, it’s safe to assume that the people actually involved in the accident are going to be struggling to keep it together, and they need to have someone there who is able to keep a clear head. Panicking or freaking out will do no one any good.
Stay and Assess the Situation
You might be tempted to just drive off and let someone else deal with it. However, remember the people involved—they might be hurt and in need of assistance. With this in mind, find a safe spot to pull over. Make sure it is not too close to the accident; you want to leave some room in case there are hazards such as broken glass, or in case of emergency personnel need to be able to drive up and do their jobs.
After you’ve parked, approach the vehicles calmly and see if there are any injuries. You might be tempted to try and help move people or move the cars, but unless there is an immediate threat—such as a fire, you should not touch anything or anyone. Offering unneeded assistance can actually compound the problems if you don’t know what you’re doing, and this can lead to problems later on.
At this point after witnessing a car crash, you need to make sure to call 911 for emergency assistance. Many people make the mistake of assuming that 911 has already been called—don’t make that mistake! Unless you actually witnessed someone making the call, go ahead and do it yourself. It won’t hurt, and it might just help get the right people on the scene sooner.
Talk to the Police
At some point, the police will arrive and take charge. When they are ready for you, most likely they will need an official statement. Even if you did not witness the crash, but came on it afterward, they might need to talk to you. In any case, it is important to remember a few things when talking to the police:
Remain objective –Don’t try to put your emotions into your statement and don’t try to draw any conclusions about who did what. That’s their job.
Report the facts as you saw them- Start from the very beginning of your involvement to the end. Leave nothing out.
Again, try to leave speculation out of this- What you think you saw might not be the whole story, and unnecessary information could cloud a case and make it harder for the authorities to find out the truth.
After you make the statement, most likely you will be free to go on your way.
Write it Down
At some point later, and as soon as possible, take a minute and write down what you witnessed. Yes, you gave a statement to the police, but if this accident becomes a legal case you might be asked to make more statements, or to clarify things you’ve said before. Most likely, your memory isn’t perfect. Therefore, writing down everything is a good idea. Write down everything you remember and at this point maybe you’ll remember a thing or two you didn’t mention earlier and keep it handy in case you are called on later.
Get Legal Help
This step might raise some questions. You haven’t done anything wrong, right? Why should you need a lawyer? However, if this car accident becomes a legal matter, you as a witness might be asked to testify or make more statements. In addition, unfortunately, there’s a chance that your actions might be questioned by someone at the scene as well. In either case, having legal representation on your side is never a bad thing. While most witnesses never have to worry about it, it’s good to know that there’s someone looking out for you should you need it.
If you’ve been witness to a car accident and are seeking legal help, why not contact us today? Our experienced legal team is ready to talk to you and guide you every step of the way.