Witnessing a car accident can leave you with a lot of complicated questions. You could be wondering if you could have done more to help the victims or ensure you followed the proper procedures. Consult this quick guide provided by our Dallas personal injury attorneys for some dos and don’ts for the scene.
What To Do & What Not To Do When You Witness An Accident
• DON’T feel like you must stop. The law does not require you to stop at the scene of an accident. However, most people feel it is the right thing to do. If you are one of the first people to the scene of an accident, your assistance could be imperative for victims.
• DO make sure you are in a safe place after you witness an accident. If you are a pedestrian, you must stay in pedestrian areas like sidewalks. Even medians and shoulders can be dangerous if traffic continues to pass by. If you are a driver, pull your vehicle to the side of the road, ensure rescue vehicles have room to navigate, and turn on your flashers or distribute hazard markers. Stay a safe distance from the scene unless you are rendering aid to victims.
• DO dial 911. If you are the first to the scene and are not sure if someone else has already called the police, dial 911 and report the accident. Even if you are unsure of the extent of the injuries of the parties involved, if vehicle damage has taken place, the police will make a report. Give as much detail as you can regarding your location and the nature of the accident.
• DON’T rush into the scene. Sometimes, your assistance will be helpful, but make sure you are not in danger of injury yourself due to broken glass and sharp metal. If you choose to enter the scene and render aid to victims, do so cautiously.
• DON’T offer medical assistance unless necessary. It is best to wait for emergency personnel to arrive on-scene. You may accidentally make things worse for the victim if you move him or her the incorrect way. It often takes only a matter of minutes for EMTs to arrive, and most first aid situations can wait.
• DO offer other forms of assistance. Perhaps victims could use a kind word, a cell phone to call relatives or insurance companies, or a paper and pen to exchange information. Offer what you feel you would need if in the shoes of the victims.
• DON’T fear liability. In the event that the help has not arrived and someone is in urgent need of first aid you know you can handle, Texas has Good Samaritan laws in place. As long as you are rendering emergency aid in good faith, you are not likely to be liable for civil damages.
• DO exercise caution. Accident scenes are often tense situations. Property has occurred, and tempers and emotions can run high. While the presence of a witness may help keep emotions in check, be careful when inserting yourself into the situation. Keep your own safety in mind, primarily.
• DON’T allow a driver to leave the scene without exchanging information. You do not need to physically restrain a driver – see the above note about keeping yourself safe – but it is good practice to jot down identifying characteristics and license plate numbers. If an at-fault driver attempts to leave the scene, you can remind them of the consequences of doing so and record their vehicle and license plate description.
• DO cooperate with the police. If you have chosen to stop and witnessed the accident itself, provide every detail you can to the police. Stay on the scene until your statement is complete and police have released you to continue traveling.
• DO give your contact information to drivers, if they ask. Your ability to help accident victims may not end when you leave the crash scene. If you are willing to give your name, contact information and a statement about the accident, injured victims may be able to use this during a personal injury claim to help them prove liability. The information you have about the accident could be critical for investigators to piece together what happened.
• DO give a statement. As an eyewitness to an accident, you are in a unique position to help those involved by describing what you saw. While the law does not obligate you to stay at the scene or give a statement, telling the police or the drivers involved in the crash what you saw could help clear up questions of liability and fault. Do not be nervous about giving a statement. Simply describe what you saw.
• DO pay special attention if it was a hit-and-run accident. If the accident you witnessed was a hit-and-run, your input as a witness can be even more vital. You might have seen something that enables police officers to find the culprit, such as the make or model of the at-fault driver’s vehicle, or a partial license plate number. Write down everything you can remember as soon as possible, while it is still fresh in your mind. Stay at the scene to speak to the police about what you saw. Offering your assistance to a hit-and-run victim by calling 911 and requesting an ambulance could also be important since the other driver did not stick around to do so.
• DON’T speculate about fault if you are not sure who caused the accident. If you do decide to give a statement to someone at the scene of the accident, stick only to the facts as you know them. If you do not have the answer to a question, say so. Do not feel pressured to answer every question asked. Do not make guesses as to what happened or who is to blame. Answer the questions asked honestly and as completely as possible.
• DO prepare to go to trial, if necessary. Agreeing to give a statement as an eyewitness could mean going to court if the accident victim’s case ends up at trial. While this is unlikely, prepare for this as a possibility if you give victims or the police your contact information. Witness testimony can be invaluable during a car accident case.
• DON’T ignore a subpoena. A subpoena is a judge-issued document ordering you to appear in court. If an attorney needs you to testify about what you witnessed, he or she may subpoena you as a witness. Do not ignore a court subpoena. This is against the law and could lead to you being held in contempt of court. If this happens, you may face penalties such as fines and even jail time for ignoring the court’s requests.
• DO ask for help from an attorney. Staying and helping out at the scene of an accident in Texas is an honorable and brave thing to do. Do not be afraid to intervene and render assistance to those in need. If you end up getting involved in a personal injury lawsuit, turn to a lawyer for help with the legal process.
To Learn More, Speak To A Dallas Car Accident Attorney
Overall, many people choose to stop and help when they witness a car accident. Keeping these tips in mind can help ensure you are doing what you can for the victims and police while keeping yourself safe from harm. You are not necessarily a medical professional, a mechanic, or a police officer, but Good Samaritans can provide some help and may even save a life. Just remember your own limitations and leave the tough work to the emergency personnel. To learn more speak to a Dallas car accident lawyer.