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  • Writer's pictureBrad Keating

What to Do When You Witness a Car Accident

Updated: Jan 17

In the midst of a terrible situation, witnessing an automobile accident requires a calm, cool, and controlled approach. The severity of the crash and the extent of the injuries may determine a person's course of action, but there are some broad rules to bear in mind. A witness can be better prepared to help other drivers until professional emergency workers come if they follow these guidelines.

It's common knowledge that one must come to a complete stop at the scene of an accident. Failure to comply might result in a large fine or six months in prison. The laws are different if someone's just a witness to a car accident.

When driving past a car accident, the Highway Code warns drivers not to "be distracted or slow down needlessly." This indicates that not only is there no duty to stop, but that there are occasions when it should be intentionally avoided. Crashing on the other side of a dual highway is one example. Stopping to offer assistance could restrict the road or, worse, result in another incident.

This isn't to argue that coming to a standstill at the scene of an accident is always a bad idea. People may consider the following scenario: someone witnesses a serious car accident in which everyone involved is seriously injured. That person being here could help save lives if they take the proper steps.

What Should People Do If They Witness a Car Accident?

What Should People Do If They Witness a Car Accident?

Many people have been engaged in minor fender benders, but not everyone knows what to do if they witness a motor vehicle crash. Does one pullover or continue driving? Should they offer assistance to the drivers?

What should a person do if they happen to witness a car accident? They may begin with the following nine steps:

#1: Always Pull Over to the Side of the Road

When a person sees a car accident, the first thing they should do is protect themselves and their passengers. They should maintain a safe distance from the crash site by pulling over to a safe spot off the road. Additionally, they must turn on their warning lights and double-check that it's safe to depart their vehicle. If a car accident happened on a major highway, they must not stop or get out of the car in the middle of the road.

When pulling over, they must give enough room for emergency vehicles to get to the location. Witnesses should get out of the way if they see flames, fuel leaking, or smoke emanating from the car involved in the accident. They must maintain a safe distance of at least 100 feet from the car and notify emergency personnel of the smoke.

# 2: Dial 9-1-1

What should a person do when they witness a car accident? Call 9-1-1 immediately. The witness should inform them of the accident's type, and they must be ready to provide location information. Emergency care would want to know where the nearest intersecting street is, so the witness should have a look around and figure it out as soon as possible.

If the car accident is on a highway or freeway, the witness must look for the nearest on- or off-ramp or milepost. The emergency services would also want to know how many people require assistance and whether the witness can tell if they're conscious and breathing, bleeding, or have a pulse. If the person is up and walking around, they may inquire as to whether or not they are lucid.

#3 Only Provide Assistance if Requested

Furthermore, if an injured individual is not in immediate danger, a witness should not attempt to move them. It's possible that they can be laying in the way of approaching cars or close to a fire. Attempting to transfer an accident victim can result in further injuries, so a witness should only do so if there is no other option.

When the paramedics and police arrive, a witness can perform a preliminary visual evaluation for injuries to provide EMS with as much information as possible. Find out if they are experiencing dizziness after the accident or a concussion. A concussion is one of the most frequent automobile accident injuries. A concussion can happen to an injured driver or passenger if they:

  • Show signs of being dazed, stunned, or perplexed

  • Have no recollection of the crash or what occurred

  • Lack of consciousness

  • Have a slow or incorrect response to queries

  • Their speech is slurred

If a person notices any of the abovementioned indications or symptoms, their first priority should be to assist the injured person in remaining calm and not moving until assistance arrives. However, if they're not a trained medical professional, they shouldn't try to save the day by providing medical assistance.

In case the operators ask the witness if they are willing to provide emergency treatment, they must be aware of their rights before performing such actions.

Nonetheless, even a beginner may help by taking some simple steps. As a result, a first aid kit should be one of the items a person carries in their vehicle.

The letters DRABC should be remembered, according to the Highway Code:

  • D Danger

  • R Response

  • A Airway

  • B Breathing

  • C Circulation

A witness should also look for any burns that the victim could have, cool any burns with cold, clean water for at least 20 minutes, and cover with cling film if available, according to the Highway Code.

#4: Stabilize Vehicles

Witnesses must ask the driver to place the impacted vehicle in "park" and turn off the ignition if the car accident is minor. This can eliminate the possibility of a fire, especially since the crash is likely to have resulted in oil, fuel, or coolant leak. A witness can request help to move the car out of harm's path and to make room for emergency personnel and other cars if it's safe to do so. They can put their hazard lights on, use traffic triangles, or set up flares to notify other drivers of the car crash. Chances are the driver is too panicked over their car damages, but they can have their car repaired after the accident.

#5: Transport Vehicles

A witness may be able to assist in moving disabled automobiles out of traffic lanes. However, they must not try to move the vehicle on their own.

#6: Take Photographs of the Situation

If a witness can safely capture a few images of the accident scene, they may help out the emergency workers and car accident victims. They must obtain contact information so that they can distribute the photos to those who may need them later on.

In case one or both parties make a claim, the drivers' insurance companies may contact the witness in the future. Witnesses must tell the truth to insurance companies in order to settle the case sooner. It could be beneficial for the witness to jot down facts of the accident scene as soon as they arrive home. That way, if the insurance company or the police approach them again many weeks later, they still have the same information.

#7: Take Precautions

Witnesses must be careful not to become a victim themselves. Curious bystanders may approach accident scenes too closely, while others may arrive too rapidly to halt in time or notice the bystander. Witnesses should maintain a safe distance from the road as well as other hazards.

#8: Don't Confront Drivers

A witness should avoid getting into an argument with the drivers or other parties involved in the car accident. They must stay back if the drivers are squabbling. After an accident, some drivers become enraged and may lash out aggressively. Witnesses should take a quick photo of the vehicles' license plates and models with their cellphone, or write down vehicle details and the license plate numbers of both cars.

It's critical to keep track of this information in case an enraged driver speeds away before the cops arrive. If a driver flees the scene of an accident, the witness can give the authorities any information they know about the driver and his or her car.

#9: Tell the Police What Happened

When the police and any other rescue personnel arrive on the scene, they may check for injuries and begin an investigation into the car accident. The witness must give the officer their name and contact information, as well as the details of what they saw. When making a statement, the witness should focus on the facts.

They must be truthful and avoid assigning blame. Instead, they must simply inform the officer of what they saw: the directions the vehicles were traveling, their approximate speeds of travel before colliding, whether each driver ran a red light or stopped sign, whether they noticed either driver texting or speaking on the phone, and so on. It's vital to keep in mind that this witness might be called to testify in court or a deposition later.

Collecting Evidence

Here's a quick rundown of what a witness should take a picture of with their phone right after an accident:

The whole scene, preferably showing the entire scenario, including all vehicles and elements, if possible, from all available upper places, structures, or higher vehicles.

Each truck and/or trailer's four sides and four corners, photographed from a distance sufficient to display the entire side or two sides creating a corner.

Damages to each car or trailer from at least three views, including a higher angle, from a distance far enough to clearly display the vehicle and close enough to accurately illustrate the damages, if possible.

The license disks and/or license plates, as well as the make and model of each vehicle and any trailers involved.

Scratches, deposits, gouges, and fluid spills on the road surface, debris, tire marks, or any other relevant observable evidence from all the sides.

As far as practical, all concerned drivers, passengers, witnesses, or involved parties must provide their contact information, driver's licenses, ID documents, passports, or other forms of identification or business cards.

Good Samaritan Law

A witness cannot be held liable if they offer medical assistance in good faith and a fair manner thanks to the "Good Samaritan Law." Citizens are encouraged to support one another under this law.

According to the law, a third party who provides emergency treatment or assistance to an ill or injured person at the scene of the crash, fire, or other life-threatening incident is not subject to liability for civil damages for acts or omissions arising from that care or assistance (except in rare circumstances).

Physical help, on the other hand, should be left to professional responders. It's dangerous for witnesses to help victims with anything other than emotional support unless they've had special training. Most car accident attorneys in Columbus Ohio suggest that witnesses do not move any injured bodies, because doing so can put them in more danger or injure them even more.

Victim Should Get Medical Care

Victim Should Get Medical Care

Back and neck injuries, concussions, whiplash, and soft tissue sprains, and strains are all common in car accidents. Symptoms of vehicle accident injuries may not appear for several hours, days, or even weeks after the event. Back or neck discomfort, headaches, stiffness, muscle spasms, numbness or tingling, loss of normal movement, exhaustion, and changes in mood or personality are all symptoms of a significant injury.

Even if a victim has no pain or symptoms, everybody who has been in an automobile accident should see a doctor for an evaluation. Failure to seek medical attention and treatment for car accident injuries immediately might result in long-term pain and consequences.

Witnesses Can Get Follow Up Care for Themselves if They Need It

If someone witnesses a car accident, they have gone through something that most people haven't. Even if they were not in direct danger, witnesses can be traumatized by seeing an accident. If a person finds themselves reliving the accident or obsessing over its specifics, they should seek help.

The Keating Law Firm has many personal injury lawyers who specialize in assisting accident victims in obtaining compensation for their injuries. If a victim has any questions about a car accident or a personal injury claim, they may contact an auto accident attorney from The Keating Firm.


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