What to Do if You Witness a Car Accident

You are driving down the road on a beautiful afternoon when you notice another driver behaving erratically. Perhaps you move over to try to get away from that driver, all the while thinking, “That is an accident waiting to happen." Then, right in front of you, it really does happen. Do you know what to do if you witness a car accident?

Stop at the Scene

You see an accident happen. You saw everything. You heard it all as well. What do you do now?

  1. Turn on your emergency flashers and stop as quickly as you can safely. You want to alert drivers behind you of the situation while getting yourself and your passengers to safety as quickly as possible.
  2. If you have a cellphone, call 911 and report the accident. You will need to provide detailed information as to the location, direction, and vehicles involved. If the other driver fled the scene, give as much detailed information as you can about the car, driver, and accident itself.
  3. If you can safely do so, try to check on the occupants of the vehicles involved in the crash. Risking your own health or safety to try to help them may be noble but misplaced efforts. Instead, focus on trying to assess the situation. Do NOT move the injured parties out of the vehicle unassisted by emergency personnel as you may make their injuries significantly worse unless there is fire breaking out or they are in immediate danger.
  4. Take pictures of as much of the accident scene as you can. These will be important evidence later.

Your Safety Comes First

Even if you saw the accident happen and the responsible driver is now changing the facts of the story, do not engage in a debate with him. You have no idea if he is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or suffering from the effects of road rage, so it is in your best interests to avoid getting confrontational or argumentative.

Similarly, while you can and should do all you can within reason to help the injured parties, you should not risk creating greater harm for them or for yourself by taking on responsibilities you cannot manage. Leave medical treatment to the medical professionals unless there is an immediate threat.

Identify Yourself

Give the police your name and contact information. Your viewpoint may be a critical piece of evidence to support the victim's ability to receive compensation from the responsible party. You may also want to find a way to send all the pictures and other information to the injured party or her insurer.

An accident can be a traumatic experience, but by stopping, calling 911, assisting injured drivers, and giving police your information, you can make the situation just a little bit less scary. For more tips about safe driving and what to do after accidents, feel free to check out our blog.

Max Meyers
Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.