How to Help at the Scene of a Car Accident
Growing up, did you learn about the “golden rule” in school or church? For most people, this rule refers to the idea that you should treat other people the way you would want other people to treat you. While it might not be a lesson you’ve thought about recently, the golden rule still comes in handy in adult life.
The golden rule is a particularly important idea to remember if you witness a car accident. If you were in an accident, you would likely want someone to stop and help. That is why you might want to consider extending that same courtesy to others. Below are some answers to more commonly asked questions and the actions a witness can take to help everyone involved in an accident.
Do I Have to Help if I Witness a Crash?
Of course, there is no legal obligation to help at the scene of a car accident. In most states, you are not required by law to stop, unless you were directly involved. Still, if you are able to assist, feel comfortable doing so, and will not be in the way, the victims will likely appreciate the help.
After deciding to help, the first thing you should consider is your own safety. Immediately rushing to the scene might seem heroic, but you could be putting yourself in danger. If possible, you should pull over to a safe spot, away from oncoming traffic. Once you have pulled over, exit your vehicle from a side that is not facing traffic, if you can. When approaching the scene, you should always be aware of any other hazards, like flames, spilled oil, or broken glass.
Seek Medical Attention for the Victims of the Car Accident
One of the first things you should do after witnessing an accident is call 911. Don’t assume that someone else has already called! Even for a minor accident, having a 911 call on record helps with any future insurance disputes between the drivers. Additionally, any car accident can cause injuries, including traumatic brain injury or deep tissue injuries. Medical attention might be necessary, even if it doesn’t seem like it.
That said, you should not attempt to perform any medical treatment on victims at the scene. If you are not professionally trained, you could actually cause further harm. For example, moving someone with a back injury could result in paralysis, or an improper chest compression could lead to internal damage. This is why it’s generally better to refrain from providing medical aid. However, if you do provide aid, you are protected from a lawsuit if the victim suffers further harm. According to Florida Statutes,
“any person, including those licensed to practice medicine, who gratuitously and in good faith renders emergency care or treatment either in direct response to emergency situations . . . shall not be held liable for any civil damages as a result of such care of treatment or as the result of any act or failure to act in providing or arranging further medical treatment where the person acts as an ordinary reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.”
Essentially, as long as you act with good intentions, you will generally not be held liable for any injuries. Still, unless you are a medical professional, avoid administering aid until medical personnel arrive.
Providing a Witness Statement to Law Enforcement
Finally, give information to anyone who may need it. The people involved in the crash might ask for your contract information, or a police officer who arrives at the scene might ask for a witness report. Be honest about the details of the accident, avoid assigning fault, and provide up-to-date contact information.
A car accident is never a good situation, and the scene of an accident can be a scary, tense place. But by stopping after witnessing an accident, you are making the aftermath easier for the victims, potentially saving a life, and of course, treating others how you would want to be treated in a moment of need. When you’re done helping out, you will probably feel better knowing you did the right thing—and will have received an important reminder of why you should always drive safely on the roads!
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.