You're on the way home from work. The light turns yellow and you start slowing down, but the driver ahead of you decides to go for it. He accelerates, and you watch in horror as he runs the red light and gets hit by a car coming through from the other direction.
It's terrifying to witness, but now you have to start thinking about what you should do. Should you stop and help? Do you have legal obligations if you do? Should you keep going and let the authorities sort it out? Below are a few tips that can help.
Don't Block Traffic
If you do stop, do not block traffic. Even those who are involved in accidents, thought it's illegal to leave the scene, are instructed to get their cars out of the road if possible. Witnesses should pull well off to the side of the road. Even if you're trying to help, blocking traffic is dangerous and can cause secondary accidents. Let the police stop other cars when they arrive.
Don't Move Injured People
Your first instinct is to run up to the vehicles and make sure everyone is all right. You should, but don't get too close. Don't touch any victims. Don't move them or pull them out of the vehicles.
If you do, you could end up in legal trouble, especially since you don't have medical training. A person with a back injury could wind up paralyzed and blame you, saying that you made the injury worse while violently and unprofessionally pulling them from the car. You're best off to wait for medical professionals to arrive.
There are some exceptions. If you think that the person is in immediate danger -- if the car is on fire, for example -- you may want to pull them out. Generally speaking, though, unless it's an extreme situation, you want to leave them where they are.
Talk to the Police
The drivers involved may be very grateful that you stayed, and they'll want you to give your account of the accident to the police. If both drivers say they had the green light, for example, it's hard to prove fault without a witness who backs one driver or the other. Your testimony can be useful both in criminal court and in civil court.
Car Accident Claims
As you can see, the role witnesses play in car accident claims can be dramatic, and it's important for drivers to understand how fault is determined, how witnesses can help, and what legal rights they have.
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