What to Do After Witnessing a Car Accident

What to Do After Witnessing a Car Accident

What should you do if you saw an accident? It’s something most of us don’t think of until it happens, so having a plan can make things safer for everyone involved. Here’s what you should do if you see a collision.

Stay Safe

If you’re on the road and need to stop, turn on your hazard lights. This draws attention to your vehicle so that cars behind you will have time to slow down. Try to park at least 100 feet away from the crash and leave your hazards on: this helps emergency services find the accident and gives them a place to park.

Do not approach the vehicles unless you are absolutely certain that they are safe. Make sure you and your vehicle are in a safe location. It’s easy to be careless after seeing an accident and either park where your car can be hit or accidentally walk out into traffic.

Modern cars are designed to shut off the engine, fuel pump and electrical system after an accident to reduce the chance of injury, but that doesn’t make the vehicle safe. Spilled fuel and oil can still ignite, or a coolant hose can burst, spraying the area with boiling hot antifreeze.

Take a moment to collect your thoughts. Where is the accident, and what is the condition of the vehicles and people involved? You’ll need to have clear answers ready when you contact the authorities.

Dealing with Injuries 

If there is a chance that anyone in the vehicles has been injured, call 911 before you do anything else. Do not move the people in the vehicle unless you are absolutely sure their lives are in danger. Spinal injuries can go from minor to permanently debilitating if the injured person is handled incorrectly.

Those involved in the accident will be in shock. Encourage them to stay put, so they don’t wander into traffic. If the accident was a minor fender bender, do what you can to direct traffic away from the vehicles, whether that involves parking your car in front of the accident or setting down some reflectors. Do not confront the driver at fault for the accident.

If you haven’t done so already, call 911 and inform emergency services of the accident.

Preparing to Testify

While the incident is fresh in your mind, write down some notes on what happened. If one of the cars drives off, make sure to write down any details you remember about their vehicle including the model, color and license. When the police arrive, they’ll interview you so they can reconstruct the accident and figure out who is at fault. You may also be asked to submit a deposition or testify in court. Gathering your thoughts now will make this process easier.

How Good Samaritan Laws Work at Accident Scenes

Good Samaritan laws vary state-by-state, which means you may or may not be protected when trying to offer medical care to people involved in an emergency. Sometimes it only covers trained medical personnel or only applies within the immediate vicinity of the accident. Wisconsin’s Good Samaritan statute was revised in 2006 to include people helping those who left the scene of an accident. For example, if an injured person makes it to your front door looking for help, you’re still covered. However, that protection ends once medical professionals are on the scene.

Other Things You Should Know

The police may not come to file a crash report if the accident was minor, especially if no one was injured. In these cases, it’s left to the people involved in the accident to file a report.

If you witness a crash involving a parked, unoccupied vehicle, get the information of the vehicle that caused the crash, and, if possible, some pictures of both vehicles. The person who owns the parked car will need this information to file a crash report.

When You Have an Accident, Go to Merton Auto Body

Whether it’s a fender bender or a major collision, we have the tools and training to get your car back on the road as soon as possible. We’ve served the Lake Country areas since 1947, providing people in Pewaukee, Oconomowoc, Delafield and Hartland with top quality collision repair.


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