Thousands of car accidents happen on roads across America every year. Unfortunately, with crash rates so high, it is not a question of if you will ever see one happen, but rather a question of when. If or when you do witness a car accident, one question will likely spring into your mind: “Should I stop and help?”
Good Samaritan Laws & Car Crashes
Some states have passed Good Samaritan laws that require people who witness dangerous accidents and events to try to assist people in need within reason. However, Good Samaritan laws rarely extend to car accidents to any degree since crash sites can get confusing and disrupted as more people gather around. It might even make it difficult for paramedics to reach people who need help if too many bystanders stopped. In other words, you are not under any strict legal obligation to try to assist someone when you witness a car accident.
Not being obligated to help doesn’t mean you should always keep driving after seeing a crash, though. Insurance companies defending negligent drivers often rely on there being no eyewitnesses in order to escape liability and insurance payouts. That is to say, if no one stops to see how they can help after witnessing a car accident, then the victim has a higher chance of effectively being cheated out of compensation, especially in states that don’t use personal injury protection (PIP) insurance laws.
Being a Good & Safe Samaritan
When and how should you stop to see if you can help or provide an eyewitness testimony after seeing a crash? You need to rely on your instincts and what you can see about the environment around you to make that decision. You should never do anything that would jeopardize your own health and safety. If it is not safe for you to pull over, stop, and see if you can lend a hand, don’t.
If you do think it is safe, reasonable, and right for you to help someone after they’re in an accident, keep these steps and hints in mind:
- Park a distance away: Only park in a place you know is safe to stop. You should keep at least 100 feet between your vehicle and the crash scene. This helps ensure you stop in a safe place away from traffic. It also prevents first responders and investigators from thinking your vehicle was involved in the collision. Be sure to click on your hazard lights when you stop, which helps other motorists know something is wrong.
- Call 911: In every state, calling 911 is an expectation after an accident that causes injury or significant property damage. In some, it is a requirement. Getting emergency responders to the scene as soon as possible is crucial to not only save lives but also redirect traffic away from the scene. Never assume that someone else has dialed 911. Always call it yourself after you have stopped. The call will likely take less than a minute and the operator will tell you if they already know about the crash.
- Approach the crash: If it is safe to do so, approach the vehicles cautiously to see if anyone is injured. Be aware of gas and oil leaks, shattered glass, and stray shrapnel that could pose immediate dangers in the area. Remember to not do anything that puts you in danger, too, which would only exacerbate the situation.
- Check on injured parties: In case someone is seriously injured, you can try to comfort them as best you can. It is not recommended that you try to provide first aid, though, even if you are a trained medical professional. If something goes wrong with your impromptu treatment, then you could be sued for it later. Instead, it is often best to provide reassurance that people are on the way, to keep talking with a crash victim so they stay conscious, and to stand between them and the sun if it is shining on their face.
- Put all cars in park: Ask all conscious and responding drivers or passengers to put their vehicles into park if it has not already been done. If it is absolutely safe for you to do so, you can reach through an open door and pull on the parking brake yourself. Securing each vehicle ensures they do not roll away into traffic or down a service trench.
- Talk to authorities and give your contact info: Hopefully at this point, firefighters and police officers will have arrived on the scene. Stick around to talk with them after they do what they can to help victims of the crash. As mentioned before, giving your statement can make or break a car accident victim’s claim. Provide your contact information to the authorities and let them know you are fine with them sharing that information with responding insurance companies.
Collect Evidence & Win Your Claim
Were you in a car accident in Florida that left you with serious injuries and extensive damage to your car? If Good Samaritans stopped to help you and provide their eyewitness statements, then your injury claim is off to a good start. Keep that momentum going by connecting with Todd Miner Law in Orlando. Led by Attorney Todd Miner, the law firm has successfully collected millions of dollars in compensation for motor vehicle accident clients. See what Attorney Miner can do for your case by calling (407) 269-5877 now.