Should You Stay If You Witness an Accident?

As long as you are not involved in the car accident, you are not legally obligated to remain at the scene as a witness. There is no state law in New York, New Jersey, or elsewhere in the U.S. that requires witnesses to remain at an accident scene. However, it is considered good practice to offer aid to injured or incapacitated individuals. There are a number of things you can do to assist the victims of the accident. However, you should take care not to put yourself in harm’s way unnecessarily.

What to do immediately after witnessing a car accident

Immediately after you witness an accident, you can begin looking for a safe place to pull over if you feel inclined to lend your assistance. Do not park so close to the wrecked vehicles that your car would be in the way of emergency responders. Remember to turn on your hazard lights and park your car well away from the road.

Then, call 911 before you even leave your car. If someone is seriously injured, every second counts. The sooner they receive medical attention, the greater their chance of survival will be. Inform the emergency dispatcher that an accident has happened, and give the exact location of the crash. If you’re on a highway, you can inform the dispatcher of the nearest mile marker or exit. If you’re on a city street or in a rural area, the dispatcher will need to know the nearest cross street.

What to do next

If you’re on the shoulder of a busy highway, it may be best if you remain in your vehicle. However, if it’s safe for you to do so, you can exit your car to check on the crash victims. Before you approach the vehicle, look for signs of smoke. Moving toward a vehicle that could catch fire can be very dangerous. However, if you are able to check on the victims, be sure to advise the emergency dispatcher of their condition. If a crash victim appears to have an injured back or neck, do not try to move them. In fact, it’s best not to move a crash victim at all unless the car is at risk of catching fire. It’s possible that you may make the injury worse.

Next, if you’re able to do so, make sure the crashed vehicle is in park and the ignition is turned off. This can prevent a vehicle fire. The next thing you should do is set up road flares or traffic triangles, if any are available.

What to do when emergency responders arrive

You’re not obligated to stay on the scene until help arrives as long as you were not involved in the accident. However, doing so is helpful for the individuals involved. Inform the police that you are a witness, and let them know exactly what you saw happen. Provide your contact information. You can expect to be contacted in the coming days, perhaps by insurance agents, investigators, or car accident attorneys. Just be honest and clear with your answers.

Where to turn for legal assistance after a car accident

If you’re involved in a crash, you need qualified legal guidance you can count on. Since 1975, the car accident attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. have been helping clients recover maximum compensation for their injuries so they can move on with their lives after a crash.

We are committed to resolving your legal matter in an efficient, effective manner that brings about the favorable results you need. Our legal team can negotiate with the insurance company to get the highest possible settlement offer or, if necessary, we will file a car accident lawsuit on your behalf. Our aggressive trial lawyers are proud to serve Bergen County, New Jersey and Rockland County, New York. Call today for a free consultation.