If you are one of the first people on the scene as a witness to a car accident, you have an ethical obligation to help those involved. Although you are not legally required to intervene, offering your support could save a life. Do your best to assist those involved and to get the appropriate authorities there as soon as possible. Being a good Samaritan can have its own rewards.
Help yourself before you help others. Make sure you are in a safe location after witnessing a car accident in Los Angeles before you stop or exit your vehicle. Being the first to the scene has some risks. Other vehicles could still collide with the disabled vehicles before people notice the crash. Pull over in a safe place at least 100 feet away, turn on your emergency lights and wait until you can safely get out to do so. Look out for hazards such as leaking fuel, fires, and broken glass as you make your way to the scene.
Call for Help
Immediately call 911 if you witness a serious car accident. While you may not need to call the cops for a light fender bender, if you believe there are any injuries, deaths or expensive vehicle damages, call 911 to report the crash. Do not assume someone else has already called the cops. Report the accident, explain how many people the crash involved and if anyone needs a doctor.
Cautiously Assist the Injured
As you enter the scene of a car accident, be alert to possible dangers. Proceed cautiously if the drivers involved appear to be angry or fighting with each other. Keep your distance if you think the scene is too dangerous for you to safely enter. Otherwise, cautiously help victims with injuries. Only move them if it is necessary for their safety. Moving an injured person in the wrong way could accidentally exacerbate his or her injuries. If you can, tell the victim not to move until paramedics arrive. Keep the person calm and stay with him or her until help arrives.
Do not let the fear of a crash victim suing you keep you from offering assistance. California has a Good Samaritan Law (Health and Safety Code 1799.102) that protects people such as civilians first to the scenes of auto accidents. The Good Samaritan law states that no one who renders care at the scene of an emergency in good faith will be liable for any damages, even if that person unintentionally worsens injuries or contributes to property damages.
Offer Your Information as an Eyewitness
Remain at the scene until the police arrive. The responding officer will most likely want to take a statement from you about what you saw. Eyewitness testimony can help both drivers understand fault and resolve the case. Tell the police officer what you saw, but do not make any guesses as to fault. Stick to the facts. If you do not wait around for the police to come, at least give those involved in the accident your name and contact information. One or both drivers may call you later to request a statement about what you saw.
Give a Statement or Testify
Many car accident witnesses complete their duties when they leave the scene of a car accident They helped injured people get medical care and gave a statement to the police. They may never hear about the car crash or from its victims again. In other cases, however, a lawyer or the courts may contact eyewitnesses later to help with a case.
It is typically up to you if you want to serve as a witness in a car accident case. This may involve going to a deposition or testifying on the stand during a court trial. The only time you must lawfully offer your services is in response to a court summons. If a judge orders a summons, you must attend court to give your statement, or else face repercussions such as a fine or even jail time. If you are curious about what to expect while serving as a car accident witness in court, contact an attorney for advice.