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  • Writer's pictureBrad Keating

What to Do if You Witness a Car Accident to Stay Safe

Updated: Jan 17

It's often scary to see a car accident. Witnessing a car accident is stressful, whether it was a hit and run accident, something minor, or a fatal crash. Most people aren't sure what to do or what assistance they can offer at accident scenes and may be upset or traumatized themselves.

For example, if two cars crash and the third driver was almost hit, they may be shaken up. Still, it's crucial to know what to do if you witness a car accident. It's likely to happen at some point, so understanding the steps to take can make people feel better about their actions and protect them from liabilities later.

As long as the person is acting in good faith for the accident victim(s), they cannot be held responsible for civil damages or anything else. Here's what to do as a witness to an accident:

What to do when you witness a car accident

What to Do When You Witness a Car Accident

Pull Over Safely and Turn on the Hazard Lights

While driving down the road, there is an accident. It's crucial to know what to do if you witness a car accident, and the first step is to focus on that person's own safety. They must be well aware of the situation and pull over a safe distance from the scene. There could be a smoking vehicle or broken glass all around the perimeter.

Make sure that the vehicle is off the road enough so that others can still pass by. With that, try to give enough room for emergency personnel, such as ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars. When that is complete, and the vehicle is relatively safe from the scene, turn on the hazard lights.

This alerts other motorists and drivers that someone else is now involved. Even if it is impossible to do much to help the victims, being a witness is still crucial. Though others don't have to pull over, they may do so. Try not to compare witness statements and only speak to authorized personnel upon arrival.

Stay Calm

The goal is to assess the situation at this time. There was a car crash, and it could be very traumatizing and severe. Take a deep breath and stay calm above all else. The drivers in the car accident could be injured, frightened, or stunned.

If they are scared, it's best to be calm to help them remain as relaxed as possible. Once the situation is assessed, move on to the next step.

Call 911 at the Accident Scene

Take a deep breath and always focus on the witness's own safety. When witnessing a car accident and stopping to help, it's crucial not to rush straight into things. There could be debris, glass, fire, and other hazards that put the witness in imminent danger.

Stand apart from the people involved and call 911 to get emergency assistance. Even if the accident seems minor and there's little damage, it's crucial to call on the authorities and report the crash. Never assume that the other driver or witnesses already did. The parties involved could be unable to call for help because they are seriously injured.

When calling, give the operator as much information as possible. This includes how many people are involved, the location information, and everything else. Along with that, it's imperative to remain calm until emergency responders or the police arrive.

If the scene appears clear, cautiously move toward the vehicles, watching for glass or accident debris.

Check the Accident Victims for Injuries

If it's safe to enter the scene, the first thing to do is check on the passengers and drivers. If no one is in imminent danger, it's best not to move an injured person. With that, a person who's not a trained medical professional should not offer medical assistance to accident victims. It's easy to make that situation worse by providing incorrect first aid or moving a victim with a neck injury. Instead, wait for emergency responders to arrive to render emergency care.

After the car accident, the witness can make visual and basic assessments of injured victims to provide emergency personnel with as much information as possible. However, it's crucial that the scene be left unchanged, as the police may have to take photographs for evidence. Moving pieces of the car or people could be seen as tampering with evidence.

The most common injury from a car accident is a concussion. The injured passenger or driver could have a concussion if they:

  • Slur their words

  • Have an inappropriate or delayed response to questions

  • Lose consciousness

  • Can't remember what happened or the accident

  • Appear confused, stunned, or dazed

If any of these symptoms are noticed, the first step is to help the person stay calm. Don't let them move until emergency responders arrive. Though it might be best not to offer medical assistance, it might seem necessary (someone is bleeding out, and the witness places a cloth over the wound to stop the bleeding). Use common sense and judgment.

Some people want to be the hero in such a situation. Though thoughts of regaling friends with saving a life can be tempting, the most heroic act possible is to call for help and wait with the injured person for professionals to arrive.

When speaking to the 911 operator, it's possible to ask if there's something that can be done before the emergency responders get there. This person can help with compression, first aid, and basic CPR needs until help comes.

Provide Assistance to the Injured Person if Needed

It's important to understand that car accidents can be highly emotional and tense scenes. Provide as much help as possible without becoming a nuisance or being unnecessarily in the situation.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to call 911 and wait for emergency personnel while staying out of the way.

Sometimes, the other drivers involved are in shock or are scared. To render aid, it's best to be a reassuring presence to them. Provide some kind words and tell them that help is coming.

Practical and useful assistance is also possible in some situations. If the accident victim is upset, it's possible to lend them a cell phone to call a loved one who can offer reassurance. With that, they may want a pen and paper to write down what happened for the police officer.

Another great way to help is to shoo people to a parking lot or sidewalk if they want to stay and watch. However, don't move injured people because it's impossible to tell the extent of their injuries.

It's never a good idea to move any vehicles off the road. If possible, put out some warning cones or flares to warn other drivers, but the cars may be evidence, and placement is crucial for validation purposes of who was at fault.

Remember: it's no one's job but the police to assign blame on the parties involved.

Don't discuss fault with other witnesses or the drivers involved in the accident. If there are conflicts between the victim and another driver, don't mediate the conflict. Only discuss the details with the insurance companies of the drivers and the police when and if contacted by those agencies at some point.

Document the Details For the Police Report

When police arrive, provide them with appropriate contact information and discuss the situation in as much detail as possible. Only talk about what was actually seen. Don't speculate about who might be at fault. Just give a truthful accounting after witnessing a car accident.

Before police officers arrive, it might be wise to get the license plate numbers from any vehicles that were part of the accident. However, never pick up or move a license plate to try to see it better. Let law enforcement do that.

If it was a hit and run accident, try to remember as many details as possible about the other vehicle's color and type and make note of the license plate and the way the driver left.

The insurance companies from both drivers might be in contact in the future if the injured party files a personal injury claim. Sometimes, the law firm contacts the witnesses to get more information about the people involved to create a car accident case for the victim.

Always be truthful with lawyers and insurance adjusters. Consider writing down the accident details as soon as possible. That way, if the police or insurance representatives are in contact a few weeks later, there's nothing fuzzy about what happened.

Tell the Law Enforcement Officers Exactly What Was Seen

When the police get to the car accident scene, they are likely to focus on the people involved in the accident for injuries and start their investigation. When asked, it's crucial to provide contact information and describe what was witnessed. Only use facts when giving a statement and be honest.

Here are a few things the police might ask:

  • Directions the vehicles were going

  • Estimated speeds before collision

  • Whether either person ran a stop sign or red light

  • Whether the witness saw either party talking on the phone or texting

It's possible that the witness might be called into court to relay the facts they saw. Be honest now so that there's no risk of perjury later.

Do Not Confront the Drivers

After a car accident where the people can still talk, they may confront each other and be upset. If they are arguing, don't try to come between them. Some drivers get angry after accidents and lash out. Just write down the information possible, take pictures with a smartphone, and wait until the proper authorities arrive.

There is no sense in getting hurt when witnessing a car accident. That just leads to more injuries and gives everyone a very bad day.

In most cases, it's okay to take photos of the vehicles (makes, models, damages, license plates, etc.) However, if one person is extremely upset, don't try to force the issue. Stay back and watch what happens so that it can be reported to the police later.

The Good Samaritan Law for Witnesses

The Good Samaritan Law for Witnesses

To witness a car accident can be quite scary. Many people are afraid to get involved at all because they don't want to be liable. However, the Good Samaritan Law protects the witness from liabilities if they help injured people in an accident.

Drivers can't leave the scene until they have exchanged vehicle registration numbers, insurance information, names, and other contact information. However, it's not up to the witnesses to keep all parties on the scene.

If a witness does administer first aid, they cannot get in trouble. This means that the person receiving treatment cannot hire a law firm to sue the Good Samaritan later, especially if they were acting in good faith and believed that their actions might help instead of making things worse.

However, witnesses aren't required under the Good Samaritan law to provide assistance they feel they aren't qualified to handle. For example, the witness can't be sued if they do not administer CPR. Overall, appropriate assistance is to call 911.

If the witness gets sued, they should speak with an attorney about recourse. Legal counsel is best because the laws can be confusing when in relation to a car accident and injuries sustained by others.


Understanding what to do if you witness a car accident is crucial. Hopefully, it never happens, but when it does, these tense situations could lead to the witnesses being in danger at the scene.

In most cases, witnesses cannot be held liable for any injuries sustained while offering aid because of the Good Samaritan law. However, they may be called by the law firm or police department to provide more information.

If a person witnessed an accident and is being sued, it's crucial to call a law firm like The Keating Firm LTD. The lawyers here can provide a free consultation and determine if the witnesses are protected under the Good Samaritan law. From there, things may progress, and the top auto accident law offices can go to court to file on behalf of the person on the scene who witnessed the victims and their injuries.


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