Witnessing a car accident can be shocking, and you may not know what or if you are required to do anything next. The following steps you take will largely depend on the severity of the collision. Missouri law does not mandate that you do anything. However, your actions can potentially save someone’s life or help a victim hold the responsible party accountable.
If you are driving when you witness a car accident, pull over to the side of the road at least 100 feet from the scene and put on your hazard lights. Giving enough distance will protect you from a potential fire or broken glass.
If it’s any accident larger than a minor fender bender, call 911. Even if you think other people may have called, it’s better to play it safe. That will ensure that the victims get the fastest access to medical treatment and allow police and firefighters to address potential fires and deal with rerouting traffic.
Once it is safe to approach the scene, check on the condition of the crash victims. Make sure they are okay and offer help if they need it, and you can. However, do not move an injured person unless their vehicle may catch fire. Despite your best intentions, you could accidentally make their injury worse. Wait for the trained medical professionals to move them and tend to their injuries, but you can reassure the victims that help is on the way.
On the other hand, if you are a trained medical professional, such as a doctor or nurse, you can provide medical assistance in an emergency situation. Missouri has established a “Good Samaritan Law” that protects medical professionals from being held liable with regard to the medical care they provide. This law also applies to persons only trained in first aid who may attempt to medically assist a victim of an accident.
If they can, ask the driver(s) to put their vehicles in “park” and turn off the ignition. Doing so will eliminate the risk of a fire. After an accident, it is common for oil, fuel, or coolant to leak out. If you or one of the drivers have flares or traffic triangles, set those up to warn other drivers of the accident.
Wait for the police to arrive, then give them your statement on how the accident occurred. Stick to the relevant facts and provide your contact information. As soon as you can, write down every detail of what you witnessed. It may be days or weeks until you are contacted as a witness by an attorney, a medical professional, or an insurance claims agent. Your written account will help you remain honest, consistent, and factual.