What Should You Do When You Witness an Accident?
Whether you witness a car accident directly or come across an accident scene at a remote location, you may be their best resource. You can contact emergency services, describe how the accident happened and perhaps offer some assistance.
As a preliminary matter, the car accident lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman urge you to focus on your safety and not to do anything that will injure you or make the accident worse. Do not approach a burning vehicle or block traffic with your car. When you have ensured your safety, you can then take steps to help the accident victims.
How Should You Respond When You See An Accident?
You can do several simple things when you witness an accident:
- Call 911 and give emergency responders a clear description of the location of the accident scene;
- If it is safe to do so, check the accident victims and offer assistance, but do not attempt to move them unless they would be in greater danger if they remained in a crashed vehicle;
- Try to shut down a crashed vehicle’s engine;
- If available, set up flares or warning signs around the accident scene;
- Give your contact information to emergency responders.
These recommendations are the same regardless of whether you are a third-party witness– or you were a driver or a passenger.
Should You Report on Which Party Caused the Accident?
You might have a clear idea about who caused the accident, but you should refrain from saying that. Instead, you should focus on the facts when you speak with emergency responders and police. Tell them where you were when the accident happened, what the traffic was like, describe the weather conditions, and how many people you saw in each vehicle.
The police are trained in conducting investigations and establishing fault for collisions. They can best use the information you give them as part of a broader analysis of all the facts.
Will You Be Liable for Causing Damage if You Offer Assistance at an Accident Scene?
In general, nobody has an absolute legal duty to rescue another person or to aid accident victims. Every state, however, does have its own version of a “Good Samaritan” law. It addresses whether a witness will be liable for actions that cause further injuries. The theory behind the versions of this law in both New York and New Jersey is that bystanders will not be liable at an accident scene unless their actions are reckless or careless in any way.
What Will Happen in the Aftermath of a Car Accident that You Witnessed?
A victim may seek insurance reimbursement or file a lawsuit against an at-fault party following an accident that you witnessed. You might be contacted by an insurance adjuster or attorney to give a statement about what you saw. You might also be asked to sit for a deposition. In all cases, you should concentrate on what you directly observed and refrain from speculating or guessing about things that you may not be able to remember clearly.
Call the Car Accident Lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer, & Graifman for Representation in Car Accident Injury Lawsuits
The car accident lawyers at the law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman represent injured parties in Rockland and Bergen counties and elsewhere in New York and New Jersey. We work hard to recover damages for their car crash losses and injuries. Please see our website or call us if you have questions or concerns about witnesses who saw your accident. You may be concerned about how their reports can help or hurt your right to get reimbursement of the full amount of damages that you deserve.
Witness statements are only one component in identifying the at-fault party. Our personal injury attorneys have the knowledge and experience to organize all of the facts and information about a car accident and to determine which party was negligent.