What to do if You Witness a Car Accident
If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you understand how traumatic the experience can be. Whether it be a small fender bender or a more serious collision, the process that follows is most stressful. From reporting the accident, to filing your insurance claim, to possibly recovering from injuries; a car accident brings on a sudden whirlwind of responsibilities.
Those who witness a collision can help ease this process for others by sticking around rather than leaving the scene. Whether you’re driving behind those involved or walking alongside the road, here’s how you can be a good citizen and help:
If you witness an accident be sure to move yourself out of harms way, pull over at least 100 feet from the accident to a safe area and turn on your hazards. You want to leave enough room between your vehicle and the accident so that you don’t put yourself in danger of possible broken glass, leaked fuel, flames, etc.
Call for Backup
Every second counts after an accident. Never assume someone else has already called the police, even if the wreck doesn’t appear to be severe call 911 just in case someone has been injured. Let the operator know you witnessed a car accident, providing them with the location, number of vehicles involved, and any other important details.
Check on the Victims
If you’ve checked your surroundings and determined the scene is safe to approach, do so very carefully. Never under any circumstances attempt to move an injured person, unless there is a risk of the vehicle catching fire. Even your best intentions could result in intensifying the injuries. Instead, comfort the victim(s) and offer to help them get ahold of their loved ones and/or set out road flares to block off the accident until authorities arrive.
Wait for the Police and Give a Statement
Although it may be emotionally taxing, do your best to be patient and wait for the police to arrive. Your presence alone could help to diffuse an argument between the drivers, or prevent one party from trying to leave the scene or take advantage of the other driver. Try to be mindful of your personal safety and stay calm.
Once authorities arrive, give them as many details about the accident that you can recall and provide them with your contact information. You might be contacted as a witness by legal and medical authorities and/or insurance claims representatives in the weeks following the accident. Be truthful, factual, and consistent with your statements to ensure no details slip through the cracks.
Car accidents can be upsetting for both the victim and the bystander alike. The best thing to do if you’ve witnessed a car accident is to stay calm and wait for authorities to arrive. Only exit your vehicle to help if it is safe to do so. Your statement could make the difference in settling the accident fairly between both parties.