Approximately 6.5 million car accidents happen in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation. You may know what to do if you’re involved in a car accident. But do you know what to do if you witness one?
Witnesses to car accidents can play a critical role in ensuring the victims’ safety. They can also play a key role in assisting law enforcement and claims adjusters in getting the story straight.
Here are six things to do if you find yourself in that situation:
- Get out of harm’s way. Before you offer assistance, make sure you’re a safe distance from the crash and in a safe place where other drivers can avoid you. Put on your hazard lights before you get out of your car, make sure there aren’t any dangers like downed power lines, broken glass or hazardous fluids. If there are, remain in your car until help arrives.
- Help secure the scene. If you have flares or emergency triangles, use them to alert others that danger is ahead. (One exception is if there’s a gasoline leak, skip the flares.)
- Call 911. Even if the crash might not seem all that bad, it’s best to call 911 and notify them of what happened.
- Check on the victims. Unless you’re a trained medical professional and the situation is urgent, it’s best not to move anyone who is injured. Doing so often causes more harm than good. Instead, let them know that help is on the way. A kind, reassuring voice can help steady victims’ nerves during a stressful time.
- Take some photos. Victims may not be able to take photos, so take some if it’s safe to do so. You may be asked for them later by the victims, claims adjusters and/or law enforcement.
- Give a statement and/or offer your contact information. If the police arrive, stick around to give a statement of what you witnessed. If they don’t, give your contact information to those involved. Witnesses to car accidents are often called upon by insurance claims adjusters later.