What if I witness a car accident?

Written on behalf of Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

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Seeing a car accident happen can be devastating. Your first instinct may be to keep moving so as not to impede any first responders or other officials on the scene, and so as not to make it worse by potentially placing your vehicle in the path of the accident. But what if you are the only one to witness the accident? What if those involve appear to be injured and unable to help themselves? Should you get involved, or contact California authorities and move on?

If you choose to get involved, you should always be careful. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles advises that you pull off the road away from the direct scene of the collision, so as not to place yourself in the path of danger and so as not to be in the way of emergency personnel. You should call 911 immediately, but not first looking for victims. Be very careful when moving in and around the crashed vehicles, particularly if there are gas leaks or other fluids, or if anything is burning. Victims may have been thrown free from the vehicles. Searching for them allows you to give 911 dispatchers an accurate depiction of the scene before emergency response arrives.

If you are able to provide assistance for minor injuries, do so, but do not attempt to move anyone who is unconscious or severely injured unless they are in immediate danger from gasoline, smoke or fire. As a witness you are not legally obligated or liable in any fault or claims regarding the crash, but you both want to avoid further injuring anyone and avoid any potential claims of personal injury caused by your intervention.

This has been an informational blog and should not be misconstrued as legal advice.

Jeffrey R. Smith

Jeffrey R. Smith

Managing Partner

Robert B. Waldsmith

Robert J. Waldsmith

Partner, 1999

William B. Smith

William B. Smith

Partner, 1978

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