Witnessing a car accident can be a traumatic experience, and you may find yourself unsure of how to react in the moment. Do you have an obligation to pull over and help any injured parties? If you do decide to pull over, what are your responsibilities as a witness at the scene of an accident? Knowing the steps that you should take as a witness to a car wreck can help you feel more prepared the next time you see an accident on the highway. Keep reading for a look at the dos and don'ts of what you should do if you witness a car wreck in East Tennessee.
Don't: Feel Obligated to Stop
It is important to remember that Tennessee does not have a law that requires witnesses to provide assistance. If you see a car crash, you are not legally required to stop, call 911, provide medical aid, or provide assistance in any way. If you see an accident and it looks like other witnesses are already providing aid, you do not feel safe pulling over, or you do not feel fit to provide assistance, you should not feel obligated to stop. If you do feel a responsibility to provide assistance after witnessing an accident, it is important that you take the right precautions in order to ensure the safety of yourself and the people involved in the car accident.
Do: Ensure Your Safety
The most important thing to keep in mind when acting as a witness to a car accident is that your safety needs to come first. Before taking any steps to provide aid to the people involved in the accident, make sure that you get yourself to safety. If you are on the road, pull over to the shoulder and turn on your hazard lights. Make sure that you stop at least 100 feet away from the accident so that you are not in any danger if there is a fire or spilled fuel. This will also ensure that there is plenty of room around the crash site for emergency vehicles. If you are a pedestrian, stay on the sidewalk and keep a safe distance from the scene of the accident. You do not want to put yourself in danger when assisting others.
Do: Call 911
Once you have ensured your safety, your next step should be to call 911. Never assume that someone else has already alerted the authorities to the accident. Making sure that help is on the way is one of the most useful things that a witness can do following a car accident, particularly if it looks like either party may be injured.
Even if the accident does not look serious, authorities need to be made aware of the accident so that the police can come and file a report. Be prepared to provide the 911 operator with information about the accident such as the location of the accident, how many cars/people were involved, and whether it looks like anyone was seriously injured.
Don't: Rush to Move Any Injured Parties
After providing details about the accident to 911, assess the scene of the accident to determine if it is safe for you to check on anyone who may be injured. If the accident scene is in the middle of traffic, it may be best to stay in your car and wait for paramedics to arrive at the scene.
If you are able to safely approach the crash site, be cautious when trying to provide medical care to injured parties as you could make things worse if you don't know what you are doing. Sometimes, simply reassuring people that help is on the way is the best thing that you can do at the scene of an accident. You can also provide injured parties with pieces of cloth to apply pressure to wounds if they are bleeding profusely.
One of the biggest mistakes car accident witnesses often make is trying to move an injured person to get them away from the scene of the accident and to a safer location. However, if the victim has hidden/severe injuries, you could make things worse by trying to move them. Unless the car is on fire, it is best to wait and let experienced first responders move anyone who is injured.
Don't: Let Any Vehicles Leave The Scene Before Authorities Arrive
After an accident, it is important that both parties involved exchange insurance and contact information before they leave, even if there are no injuries and only minor property damage. However, a driver may attempt to flee the scene of an accident in order to avoid facing consequences if they know that they are at fault.
While you should not try to physically restrain anyone who attempts to flee the scene of the accident as this could put you in danger, you can try to convince them to stay by reminding them of the consequences of a hit-and-run. If they still try to leave the scene of the accident, write down their license plate number or any identifying information about the car and driver that you can remember, as this can help the police track them down. Witness accounts are often instrumental in helping solve cases involving a hit-and-run.
Do: Give a Statement to The Authorities
When the police arrive, be prepared to give a statement about what you saw when the crash occurred. Be honest about what happened and provide as many details as possible, as your account could help establish who was at fault for the accident, allowing victims to receive compensation for their injuries. You will also need to provide your contact information to the police, as you may be contacted by insurance agents and/or either party's attorney to provide more information about what happened.
Do: Be Prepared For a Deposition
As a witness to a car wreck, you may be deposed by either party. A deposition is merely an opportunity for an individual's attorney to ask you further questions about what you observed on the day of the accident. While depositions do not take place in a courthouse, you will be under oath and must answer all questions truthfully. Depositions can be crucial in helping victims establish fault and obtain compensation for their injuries. If the case ends up going to trial, you may also be asked to provide testimony in court as a trial witness.
Consult an Attorney if You Have Been Injured in a Car Accident
Witnesses can play a key role following a car wreck by ensuring that help is on the way, and by providing an account of what happened that can help establish fault. They can also provide vital evidence that can help track down the other driver in the event of a hit-and-run accident. If you are injured in a car accident and there are any witnesses at the scene, make sure that you get their contact information, as their perspective may be critical in proving the other driver's negligence. You will then want to consult an experienced personal injury attorney to find out what steps you should take to ensure that you are properly compensated for your injuries.
Feel free to contact us to learn how consulting an experienced personal injury attorney could benefit you if you were injured in a car wreck in East Tennessee as the result of another driver's negligence. As The Car Wreck Pro Attorneys, Fox and Farmer will always be there for you if you are involved in a car accident.