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What to do if you witness an accident

We hear a lot about what to do in case you’re in an accident and of course tips on how to do your best to avoid accidents. I’d like to share a few important things with you about what to do if you witness an accident and are the first to arrive on the scene to help.

Make sure you’re safe

You won’t be helpful to anyone if you don’t first take care of yourself. Pull over and park your car a safe distance from the accident, remembering to turn on your hazard lights.

Before exiting your vehicle, check for on-coming traffic in both directions. Take extra precaution if you are on a stretch of road that is poorly lit, using anything that you may have in your car to help illuminate yourself and the scene, such as a flashlight, emergency flares or reflective signage. If possible, flag down the driver of another passing car that could assist you with the management of the accident scene.

Call 911

It’s important to call 911 as soon as possible. The earlier you call, the sooner emergency services can be on the scene. Even if an accident doesn’t look serious, the best thing to do is notify the authorities. Let the 911 operator know that you’ve seen an accident, then answer any questions and follow any instructions he or she provides. You will likely be asked the location of the accident, the number of vehicles and the number of people involved and any information you have on the condition of the people involved.

Stay calm and assess the situation

Once you’ve determined that it’s safe to approach the vehicles, try to check on all of the victims to make sure they are ok. If the accident is minor, remind the drivers to engage their parking brake or put their car in park and to turn off their engines. This will reduce the risk of fire from any fluids that may have leaked from one or both of the vehicles. If the vehicles are blocking the roadway and there is no safe way to move them, set up road flares or reflective triangles to warn oncoming traffic to avoid the accident scene.

If the accident is more serious, what you may witness at the crash site could be upsetting. Try to stick to the facts and avoid sharing your opinions with the victims about the accident or their current condition. Unless you are a trained professional, you may be further upsetting the victim unnecessarily if it turns out you are wrong.

Take note of additional safety concerns to be considered, for example, downed power lines or any hazardous liquids like gas, oil, or other fluids that may have spilled on to the roadway. These fluids can be flammable, hence no smoking, no matter how stressed you may feel.

Don’t move anyone

Moving an injured person often does more harm than good. If there is no immediate danger involved in allowing the person to stay where he or she is, wait for trained medical professionals to arrive and let them handle it. The only exception is if there is an immediate danger such as risk of fire or an object that is unstable and may fall on the victim. In most cases, the best thing you can do is stay with the victim and reassure him or her that help is on the way.

When help arrives

When the ambulance arrives:

  • Identify yourself as the person who made the 911 call.
  • Follow all instructions from the paramedics, they may wish to hear from you now, or they may just want you to get out of the way.

When law enforcement officials arrive:

  • Do not withhold any information.
  • Provide all of the relevant facts as you know them.
  • Share any details, even if they seem small and irrelevant.
  • Give accurate contact information should the authorities or other professionals investigating the accident need to contact you in the future.

What if you’re the accident victim?

This post is written in the hope that you witness an accident and are not the victim yourself. If you are the victim of an accident, remember what you read here. Someone may stop to help, but not know how and you may end up directing things on your own.

You may also want to read a recent post on the importance of recording information after the accident. Take a few minutes to read Why you should keep an injury diary.

We’re here to help

We believe that everyone deserves fair compensation when they are the victim of someone else’s negligence. If you are seriously injured in a car accident or any type of accident, contact Attorney Greg Bagen for a free case evaluation. In his 40 years as Putnam County’s Personal Injury Attorney, he has helped countless people. Find out if he can help you.

(845) 279-7000

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