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Blog category: Driving

How to Help When Witnessing a Car Accident

5 min read

The sudden screech of tires, the unmistakable sound of metal colliding — witnessing a car accident is jarring. Do you know what to do? What are your responsibilities as an accident witness? Do you call 911 for a car accident? What if someone else had already called? When approaching an accident scene, what should you do? The clear-headed actions of a car accident witness can help protect accident victims from greater injury. But the situation is hazardous for you, too. So, let’s explore how you can help when witnessing a car accident.

Ensure Your Safety First

Witnessing a car accident can make you want to jump in and help. However, you must remain safe, so you don’t complicate the rescue mission for first responders. Before taking any action, take a deep breath and stay calm. Conduct a swift assessment of your surroundings. When approaching an accident scene, you should always be hyper-aware of potential risks to you and the accident victims. Steer clear of broken glass and twisted metal. Do the damaged cars block traffic? Do you see any fluids leaking? Is there a risk of a fire? Your observations will guide your next steps.

Calling for Help

When you're the first-hand witness to an accident, the chaos, the shock, and the instinct to help may overwhelm you. Stay calm and remember the answer to a critical question. Do you call 911 for a car accident? Every single time. The potential hazards of a crash scene aren't always visible at first glance. Even a fender bender may involve soft tissue injuries that are not immediately apparent. Debris from the collision may present a hazard to other vehicles. You must contact the authorities.

Never assume that someone else has already called 911. After all, everyone else is thinking the same thing. Assuming someone else is calling is part of the “bystander effect,” where the presence of other bystanders makes people less likely to step in and help. You can help those involved in the accident by calling 911. Unless, of course, another bystander is clearly doing so.

Offering First Aid and Comfort

Witnessing a car accident puts you in a unique and crucial position. After ensuring your safety and calling for professional help, your next instinct might be to rush to the aid of the victims. While your heart is in the right place, remember the scene's emotional charge. As a car accident witness, providing comfort without casting blame is essential. There are no accusations, no judgments; now isn't the time to assess who might be at fault.

Instead, focus on the immediate needs of those involved. Speak soothingly, reassure them that help is coming, and stay by their side if possible. No matter how much you want to, it's typically not advised to move an injured individual unless there is an immediate fire threat. Moving an injured person may seem like the right action to take, but it can exacerbate their injuries. Stay close and offer comfort. You can bind wounds and stanch bleeding, but don’t move the accident victims.

Car accident victims are often disoriented and scared. While you cannot move them, you can help them feel less alone. Gently engage them in simple conversation unrelated to the accident. This will help them feel calmer.

The moments after an accident can be terrifying for those directly involved in a collision. Knowing what to do after you've been in a car accident is crucial not only for your well-being but for the smooth functioning of post-accident processes.

Stabilizing the Scene: Prioritizing Safety for All

As a car accident witness, one of your primary concerns is ensuring that further harm doesn’t occur. If it's safe, ensure all involved vehicles are in park mode, with their ignitions turned off. An active ignition combined with oil or fuel leaks can swiftly escalate to a fire hazard.

If traffic conditions permit and you have assistance, consider moving the damaged car off the road to prevent additional collisions. If this isn’t feasible, setting up warning flares or traffic triangles can guide traffic safely around the accident – assuming this doesn’t pose a safety risk for you. If you don’t carry these car emergency-preparedness items, get some and toss them in the trunk. Add a safety vest while you’re at it. Just like jumper cables or a tire jack, you will seldom need them. But if you ever become a car accident witness, these road security items will be priceless if emergency personnel aren’t able to reach the scene quickly.

Staying vigilant, helping car accident victims, and being prepared at accident scenes are part of overall road safety. If you're planning on hitting the road for an extended period, it's essential to understand safety tips for long drives. These tips ensure you reach your destination safely and reduce the chances of becoming involved in or witnessing an unfortunate event.

Documenting and Providing Accurate Information

Once you’ve called 911, comforted the injured, and stabilized the scene, you’ve handled the most critical responsibilities of a car accident witness. But there’s still more help you can provide. When law enforcement arrives, they'll rely heavily on your observations to piece together what transpired. It's crucial to be honest, factual, and consistent. Your testimony might be the most unbiased account available.

Consider photographing all the involved vehicles and their license plates. Provide these to law enforcement along with your statement and contact information. This documentation may be valuable to accident reconstruction and the injured parties when they file an insurance claim. Understand that you may be called upon to testify in court about what you observed and recorded.

Witnessing a car accident can be overwhelming. Learning what to do when approaching an accident scene will help you remain calm and help others in need.

While the reasons for car accidents vary, a few common driving mistakes often lead to collisions. Being aware of these can help you understand the scene as a car accident witness. Better yet, it helps you avoid getting into an accident yourself.

While you’re here, take a moment to review your auto insurance with a friendly Wawanesa agent. It’s great that you want to help others. But make sure you’re adequately protected, too.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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