With 42,915 road traffic fatalities in 2021, becoming a car accident witness has never been more likely. So how do you handle this situation?
First things first: it’s imperative to keep a cool head. Your role in the accident can determine its immediate outcome and future consequences. Depending on the severity of the accident, you may even end up saving a life.
Want to do the right thing? Here’s a quick guide on what you should do if you happen to see a car accident.
Ensure Your Safety
First things first: after the crash occurs, get to a safe place right away. Car accidents in busy areas can remain dangerous for a while.
If you’re driving when you spot a crash, pull over to the side of the road. Make sure you’re at least 100 feet from the scene. Then, turn on your hazard lights so that other drivers are more likely to spot the accident.
If you’re a pedestrian, stick to pedestrian areas such as sidewalks. If traffic keeps passing by, even shoulders and medians can be dangerous. Don’t get too close to the scene to avoid flames, leaked fuel, and broken glass.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to stop after witnessing an accident. That said, if you’re the first person on the scene, your assistance can be crucial for the victims.
If you witnessed a car accident, call the police as soon as possible. Even if the crash doesn’t appear severe, the authorities can help.
When you make the call, give them all the pertinent details. These include the location of the accident and the number of people involved. Let them know how serious the injuries are and whether anyone is unconscious.
The police may also ask you about the nearest cross street. If you’re not sure about this, look around and try to determine this right away. If you’re on a highway or interstate, check for the closest milepost or on/off-ramp.
Check on the Victims
If the crash was serious enough, it’s important to check on the victims. Enter the scene cautiously to avoid any broken glass or sharp metal.
Don’t try to move injured people unless the vehicle is in danger of catching fire. Doing so can make the injury worse. Most EMTs will arrive within minutes, so it’s best to let the trained professionals deal with the situation.
Don’t try to offer medical assistance unless you’re asked to. If someone’s in urgent need of first aid, though, you’re allowed to render it. Florida has Good Samaritan laws in place, so you’re unlikely to face liability.
Even if the accident wasn’t serious, you can provide help in other ways. For instance, you can offer the driver to stabilize their vehicle.
To do this, you’ll need to put the wrecked vehicle in “park” and switch off the ignition. If the crash has caused a fuel or oil leak, this will reduce the risk of fire. With some help, you may want to move the car out of harm’s way.
The victim may also ask you to document the scene of the accident. If they do, take images of the vehicles and any property damage. Also, take photographs of road conditions that may have led to the accident.
Another thing you can do is prevent the at-fault driver from leaving the scene. If this looks like a probability, jot down their license plate numbers. Don’t attempt to physically restrain them, though.
Provide Contact Information
As mentioned above, the role of a witness can be essential in an accident. That’s why the victim must know where to find you after you leave the scene.
While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, exchange contact information with them. Keep in mind that giving this information may lead to you being contacted by legal and medical authorities, as well as insurance agents.
If you’re discussing the incident, avoid assigning blame. That’s particularly important if you haven’t seen the moment of the crash. An auto accident can be a tense affair, so you should do your part in keeping tensions low.
Give a Statement
When the police arrive, do your best to cooperate with them. Florida law doesn’t require you to do so, but that’s the best way to help the victims.
While you’re giving the statement, don’t be nervous. Describe what you saw in a neutral manner and be as clear as possible. Any information you can provide can prove crucial for piecing together what happened.
If you witnessed a hit-and-run, your input becomes even more vital. There’s a chance you’ve seen something that can help the police find the culprit. That can be the make and model of their car or a partial license number.
It’s worth noting that you can come forward after an accident as well. Many witnesses don’t realize that what they saw could be valuable information. Of course, coming forward later may make your testimony less credible.
Prepare for a Trial
Agreeing to give a statement as an accident witness could mean going to court. That outcome is unlikely, but it’s still worth preparing for it.
One thing you should always do is consult with a car accident lawyer. Getting involved in a personal injury lawsuit can be tense, even if you’re not to blame. Having some help with the legal process can be very valuable.
Hiring a lawyer is even more important if you have a personal stake in the outcome of the case. For example, you may be a victim’s relative. In this case, your lawyer can help you figure out if your testimony will be beneficial.
Being a Reliable Car Accident Witness
Even if you’re not a medical professional, it’s always worth it to stop when you see an accident. As you can see from the above article, a car accident witness can still help the victims in a variety of ways.
Want to make sure your witness statements are as helpful as they can be? Let our experienced personal injury attorneys guide you through the legal process! Contact us here to learn more about our legal services.
CONTACT A TAMPA AUTO ACCIDENT ATTORNEY
In short, after a car accident, you may not know your rights. Above all, don’t struggle through the process alone. Actually, our personal injury team is here to help you with any legal needs you might have regarding your accident.
Lastly, let RHINO Lawyers answer your questions and review the facts of your case with a Free Consultation. So, get started by completing the “Free Instant Case Evaluation” or by calling us any time, day or night, at 844.RHINO.77.