What Steps Should I Take if I Witness a Car Accident?

Drivers almost never admit fault for an accident, so having an eyewitness can be enormously helpful. Oftentimes, drivers are afraid that they will have to cover the damages out of their own pocket or that their insurance rates will go up. A credible witness can help establish negligence and play a critical part in the outcome of your car accident claim. In addition to providing facts as a neutral party, an eyewitness can also help injured victims get emergency medical help. If you have questions about what you should do after witnessing a serious car accident, the dedicated Virginia Beach car accident attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help.  

What Precautions Should I Take if I Witness a Car Accident?

Although Virginia law does not require you to stop unless you were involved in the collision. No matter how the accident happened, there are steps you can take to help victims in need of emergency assistance.

Park Away From the Scene

If you were driving when the accident happened, continue driving until you find a place where you can park and safely exit your car. This will ensure that you don’t cause a second accident by trying to help those injured in the first one. 

Approach Cautiously

Stay alert and be mindful of the scene as you approach. Even if the accident was minor, you may be walking into a treacherous situation. There is always the chance of a fire or explosion or drivers who are intoxicated, aggressive, or badly injured. 

Hit-and-Run Accidents

Never try to pull over or run down a fleeing driver. They may feel threatened and become violent in their efforts to escape. If you can, take a picture or write down the license plate number of the hit-and-run driver and report the incident to local law enforcement right away.

Call 911

Although the drivers involved in the crash are required to notify the police, one or both may be too badly injured to do so. If this is the case, you should not try to move the victim as you could make matters worse. Explain the scenario to the police dispatcher and follow any directions they give you. 

Keep Calm

It may seem like paramedics are taking an age to arrive, particularly if someone is severely injured. The best thing you can do during this time is to keep yourself and others as calm as possible. Do not engage in any conversation about who was at fault for the crash. When the responding officer arrives on the scene, you will be able to give a formal statement about what you saw.

Don’t Leave Until You Are Give Permission

Once you have spoken to the police and given them a statement, you may ask if you are allowed to leave. They may have additional questions they want to ask you or need to verify the contact details you provided. When leaving the scene, drive cautiously and keep an eye out for pedestrians, onlookers, and emergency vehicles.

Write Down What You Saw

You might be contacted at a later date and asked to provide further details about the crash. If one of the involved parties decides to pursue legal action, you will most likely be contacted by an attorney and an insurance adjuster requesting an interview about the events surrounding the collision. Your credible witness statement can hold considerable weight when it comes to determining who was at fault for the accident. 

Keep Your Health in Mind

Car accidents, especially ones with severe injuries or fatalities, can be frightening and traumatic experiences, even for those who are not directly involved. Feelings of guilt, anxiety, and depression can have a profound impact on your ability to eat, sleep, and conduct your daily routines. If any of these symptoms arise after witnessing an accident, please contact a qualified healthcare professional. 

Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

While you are under no legal obligation to remain at the scene of a car accident you witnessed, you may feel a moral obligation. By stopping to help, you can make a noteworthy difference, such as ensuring the safety of any victims. Your witness statement could also be crucial to the outcome of any subsequent legal proceedings by providing context and helping to establish liability. 

The experienced Virginia Beach car accident attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help you draft any necessary statements and communicate with the other parties involved. We have an outstanding track record of achieving positive results for our clients by building strong cases that often include witness statements. In one recent case, we won a $1 million wrongful death settlement for the family of a woman who was fatally struck by a driver as she rode her bike home from work. If you witnessed or were injured in a car accident and are seeking legal advice, you can schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified attorneys by calling (833) 997-1774 or by reaching out through our online contact form. Our offices are located in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Hampton.