What Should You Do if You Witness an Accident?

by Staff Blogger | June 1st, 2020

Witness an accidentCrashes are an everyday occurrence in California. In fact, there were nearly 500,000 auto accidents in California in 2017.  That’s an average of more than 1,300 crashes every day. If you’ve never witnessed one, the chances are good you will at some point in your lifetime.

So, if you’re wondering what to do when you witness an accident, you’ve come to the right place. The steps you take in the moments after a crash can make a big difference in people’s lives.

Let’s look at the most important things you should (and shouldn’t) do after witnessing a car accident in California.

What to Do If You Witnessed a Car Accident

As a witness, your first priority is to provide assistance without doing any harm to yourself or those involved in the crash. While your actions can be helpful or even lifesaving, taking the wrong steps may put you and others in danger. Keep the following steps in mind to be an effective and safety-conscious Good Samaritan:

Don’t put yourself in harm’s way. Throughout every step listed below, keep your own safety in mind. If a crash happens in heavy traffic, be mindful of oncoming vehicles. If a vehicle has been badly damaged, remember that the vehicle itself is a threat to your safety. Always act with caution.

Report a crash to the authorities as soon as possible. Typically, someone involved in the crash will notify the authorities. However, it’s possible they might not be able to do so. For example, if a driver strikes a pedestrian or an idle vehicle and speeds away, a third party’s report might be necessary. That’s why you should always call 911—never assume someone else already has.

Give a statement to the police officer responding to the scene. When a police officer responds to the scene, you can give the officer your account of what happened. This information might play an important role in the report the officer files. Once you’re finished speaking to the officer, you can ask them if they need any other information before you leave.

Offer your contact information to one of the drivers involved in the crash. When you’ve witnessed a car accident, you can offer your contact information so they, their insurance company, or their lawyer have the option of following up with you later if they need more information. Insurance claims stemming from crashes are often contested by insurance companies, so your account of what you witnessed could be a valuable asset for the driver.

Call for medical assistance rather than trying to move an injured person yourself. If someone inside the vehicles involved is badly injured, let emergency medical responders handle them. You might inadvertently worsen injuries by trying to move the person to a safe place. Of course, there are exceptions.

California’s Good Samaritan Law protects people from liability when they try to help someone who needs to be rescued. If it’s an absolute emergency, and you’re confident in your ability to help, then you can. In all other circumstances, call emergency responders and wait for help.

Take pictures of the scene—if needed. Photographs of a crash can be valuable in the insurance claims process. If drivers are incapacitated, you might be able to help them by taking pictures of the crash’s aftermath. However, if at all possible, consider asking one of the drivers for permission first.

Look for other ways to help injured people. You might be able to help an injured person by contacting their loved ones, supplying first aid items, or doing something as simple as offering them water, a blanket, or a pen and paper to write down important information. The best way to find out how to help those involved in a crash is by simply asking.

There are also several things you don’t want to do when you witness a car accident. Tensions sometimes run high after a crash, so you don’t want to introduce any additional hostility. When you lend your hand to those involved, try your best to be a calming presence.

In summary, there are several ways to help crash victims without putting yourself or others in harm’s way. Be cautious, contact the authorities, and look for unobtrusive ways to make people’s lives easier. Consider the help you’d need if you were involved in a crash and act accordingly.

If You Need Help After a Crash, Contact Berg Injury Lawyers

At Berg Injury Lawyers, we have years of experience helping people after a serious vehicle accident. We know how important the minutes, days, and weeks after a crash can be, especially when it comes to the insurance claims process.

We help our clients get the service and legal representation they need to get their lives back in order after a wreck. If you or someone you care about was involved in a crash, you can call our firm anytime to schedule a free consultation.