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There’s a lot of information available on what to do if you are involved in a car accident, but not much information for people who witness car accident.
Do you even have to stop if you witness a crash? Here is some helpful information you need to know:
It depends upon where you are. Most states don’t require you to assist if you witness a car accident. A lot of people believe the opposite but, if you don’t want to help, you are not required to do so by law in most states.
That’s up to you. However, many people are afraid to assist because they’re afraid they’ll be held liable if they intervene. This, too, is untrue in most states. For instance, West Virginia has a Good Samaritan Law which protects citizens who intervene in an accident.
The law states that no person, including a person licensed to practice medicine or dentistry, who in good faith renders emergency care at the scene of an accident or to a victim at the scene of a crime, without remuneration, shall be liable for any civil damages as the result of any act or omission in rendering such emergency care.
So, in West Virginia, you will be protected if you help during an accident. But, what to do if you witness car accident?
It’s good to help others but you should err on the side of caution. Keep yourself in a safe zone. Don’t panic. If you witness a car accident don’t put yourself in danger.
Turn your hazard lights on, and make sure your vehicle is in a safe position. Try not to park too close to the accident scene in case of fire or other hazards.
Call 911. If the accident is severe, the occupants of the vehicles likely won’t be able to contact emergency services. Their cars may be equipped with a service like OnStar, but it won’t hurt to call 911 to be safe. Be sure to tell the operator you’ve witnessed an accident. Explain where the accident occurred, how many cars are involved and if there are any injuries.
It’s possible the vehicle passengers may need help getting out of the car, even if they aren’t injured. Assist them if you’re available to do so safely. This process may be more difficult in modern cars. Each year cars seem to have more and more airbags. Extracting someone from the car may be more difficult with side curtain airbags and airbags found in the side of the door. Also, take extra precautions around electric and hybrid cars.
If there is a fire or another hazardous condition, do your best to help control the situation, but only if it’s safe for you to intervene. Also, it’s a good idea to keep a portable fire extinguisher in your car. It can come in handy in this situation or if you’re involved in your own accident.
After the accident, the motorists might not be able to take photos of the scene. So, if you have a phone with a camera, or a digital camera, take photos of the scene. This may help later.
It’s possible you’ll be asked to give a police report, even if you didn’t witness the actual accident. The police will want to know what you did when you came upon the scene, and they’ll want you to recount what you did, and how you helped the individuals involved in the accident.
An accident can be scary, even if you witness a car accident. While you are not required to help, it can make a big difference to the people involved in the wreck. Knowing what to do ahead of time can save time and possibly save lives.
If you know someone who’s been in an accident, you can help them by telling them to call Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law for a free consultation. Our firm has battled government and insurance giants for over 20 years. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. We can also communicate electronically. Fill out this form so we can contact you at a convenient time.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law