D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from Seve...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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Nobody wants to be in bad traffic, let alone in an accident. If you witness a bad car wreck, you should stop and identify yourself as a witness. It may be inconvenient, but it’s a must-do. You’ll need to give your information and a statement, but there’s a little more to it than that. Follow these seven steps if you witness a car wreck:

Don’t Put Yourself in Danger

  • Pull Over. Be extremely careful, and do not cause another auto accident by doing so. Make sure that you don’t put yourself in danger. While it’s good that you want to help someone else, it’s better not to chance danger with fires, flames, or broken glass. Don’t forget: Put on your hazard lights! Make sure you’re far off to the side of the road, and even if you think other cars are going slow, do not step into open traffic.

Call 911

  • Immediately Call 911. No matter the severity of the wreck, the authorities need to know. Tell the 911 operator you’ve witnessed a car accident, and provide the address. When you’re asked, tell the operator any relevant details. In some cases, others will be calling on their cell phones, but everybody might also assume somebody else is calling leading to a delay in emergency response.

Stay Calm on the Scene

  • Stay Calm on The Scene. Keeping your cool after you’ve witnessed a car accident is both necessary and important. Check to make sure that all involved are OK, and assess the situation on a case-by-case basis. When you keep your cool, you can give more accurate information about property damage and injuries and assist as needed.

Don’t Perform Medical Treatment

  • Don’t Perform Medical Treatment Unless You’re A Trained EMT. You may be tempted to try to help if you have CPR or other training. You may just want to do something. Do not perform medical treatment unless you are medically licensed to do so. You could be held liable if something goes terribly wrong even though your intentions are good. Wrecks can be scary, and sometimes people get hurt. But use your best judgment, and don’t be a hero. You’ve called law enforcement officers and other emergency personnel. Let them do their jobs.

Give the Police a Statement

  • Be Forthcoming with Relevant Details and Your Contact Information with The Police. Do not discuss fault with the people in the accident. There could be negative consequences. Only speak about the wreck to the police. If there are any relevant details for medical professionals, let them know, as well. Whether it’s a single-vehicle accident or a multi-car pileup, the police need as much objective information as they can get to evaluate the situation.

Be Available for Comment

  • Be Available for Comment. When you leave the scene of a wreck, you may be called on by medical authorities, police officers, or insurance agents. Make sure that you’ve given everyone your contact information in case you are needed for comment in the weeks following the accident. Don’t change your story, and always tell the truth. Even if you don’t think you witnessed anything important, you should still be available.

Drive Safely

After you’ve spoken to the police and given your contact information, it’s time for you to keep on motoring. While witnessing a car accident can be frightening, drive safely and with confidence away from the scene. You’ve done your good deed for the day.

Every driver should have an insurance policy. As a witness, you don’t need to worry about things like that. The only time your insurance premium and terms come into question is if you’re directly involved in the fender bender.