If you’ve witnessed a car accident, there are some important ways you can help. Your swift actions can identify hit-and-run drivers. Or help police determine who was at fault. Or even save a life.
There is no Washington State law requiring witnesses to stay at a car accident scene. However, if you can safely pull over, you may be able to offer valuable aid to those involved. If you can’t stop, you can still help by calling 911 and reporting what happened.
If you can offer medical assistance to accident victims, you can certainly do so. However, if anyone appears injured, calling 911 should be your first step.
Depending on your background or training, here are a few ways you could care for victims until help arrives:
In general, it’s best to not attempt to move an injured victim, unless there is an immediate threat of fire or explosion.
Some people might worry about what happens if you try to help a crash victim but end up hurting them worse. Thankfully, we have what’s known as a Good Samaritan law in Washington State. This law protects people who render care in an emergency from being sued.
Without a doubt, witnesses can offer valuable, objective insight about a motor vehicle accident. For that reason, police and firefighters will be eager to talk to you. However, your behavior at the scene could help or hinder their work.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind:
Most of all, be mindful of how your actions are contributing to the scene of the crash. Do all you can to be as helpful to those trying to assist the victims and your presence will be appreciated.
When you identify yourself as an eyewitness of a car accident, the police will most likely ask for your statement.
They will ask you to provide:
You may be asked a few clarifying questions or asked to provide additional information. You do not need to speculate who was at fault. Simply stick to the facts of what you remember.
Depending on the situation, you may be asked for more information or help following an accident.
For instance, you could:
While this may seem stressful, remember that your testimony may prove vitally important for those involved and that you are not in trouble. Always respond promptly and truthfully to any inquiry.
Witnessing an accident or its aftermath can take a toll on your mental health. It’s not uncommon for witnesses to experience anxiety, depression, or even PTSD. This is more likely if there was a fatality or you’ve previously experienced trauma.
Here are a few steps you can take to prioritize your self-care in the days following an accident:
Additionally, you might find value in seeking the help of a mental health therapist.
No one wants to be a witness to a car accident. But statistically speaking, most of us will be at some point in our lives. A witness can make a huge difference for an accident victim – we see it every day in our work as injury attorneys.
Please contact us any time you have been hurt in a car accident in the Puget Sound area and need legal assistance.