It’s a Monday night and you are driving home from work. You are on the same route you have taken a thousand times before. As you come to a stop behind a car at a red light, you turn the radio to find something different to listen to. The light turns green and the car in front of you begins to move forward, as do you.
Out of nowhere, a car has sideswiped the car in front of you. You slam on your brakes and assess the situation. You are not injured and you weren’t involved in the accident. However, both cars involved in the accident are severely damaged – one with damage to the side of their car, the other with damage to the front of their car.
Do you know what to do next?
Most people know what to do if they have been in an accident. However, there are more than 29,000 vehicle accidents in the US per day, so the chances of witnessing an accident are high. It can be a scary and traumatic experience, especially if it’s a major accident. If you witnessed the accident, your anxiety level may increase if you think about how close you were to being involved. Because of this, it’s important to understand what steps to take if you have witnessed an accident.
Stay at the Scene
If you have witnessed an accident, it is your obligation to stay at the scene for as long as necessary. Witnesses are an important component in a case to determine what happened and who was at fault.
If it’s any kind of accident larger than a small fender bender, call 911. Even if you think other people may have called, it’s better to play it safe. That will ensure that the victims get the fastest access to medical treatment and allow police and firefighters to address potential fires and deal with re-routing traffic.
Approach the Accident Cautiously
It’s human nature to want to help others who were in an accident. If you feel it’s necessary to approach the scene, do so with the utmost caution. If the people involved are able to help themselves to safety, then stand clear of the accident scene, which is most likely in the middle of a busy street or highway. The dangers increase once the sun goes down, and on wet roads. Do not approach any car if there is a downed power line or if there is leaking fluid or smoke. This scenario can quickly turn into a car fire or expose you to electrocution. Waiting at a safe spot with the victims will allow you to communicate with emergency crews when they arrive at the scene. Hanging around the accident scene when they arrive can cause confusion as to who the real victims are and potentially delay much needed medical help.
Stay as Long as Necessary
If you have witnessed an accident, you need to stay around until you have given both parties your contact information and also make a statement to the police if they are involved. Depending on the accident, this might require you to stay there for a while.
Write Down Your Story
As soon as possible, write down what you witnessed. You might not be asked about the accident for a long time, so writing it down will help you be clear on what you saw. Be sure to include details such as: how fast people were driving, what direction they were going, what the road conditions were that day, and the location of the accident. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of the scene to help you remember.