What to Do If You Witness a Car Accident

As a driver in Arizona, you might know you have an obligation to stop at the scene and render aid if you get into an auto accident. As a bystander not directly involved who witnessed the car accident, however, you do not have the same responsibility. Legally, you can continue on your way without stopping. Ethically, however, you should offer assistance. This may include helping an injured person get medical care or offering your testimony as an eyewitness.

What to Do If You See an Accident

Stopping to help people involved in a car accident could save a life. You could be the reason a critically injured victim gets the emergency medical care he or she needs to survive. You could also play an integral role in the victim’s car accident claim later. Your eyewitness account of what happened could help the victim prove someone else’s fault. While it may not be a legal requirement, you should help if you find yourself in a position to do so after an accident.

  1. Do not compromise your safety. Only stop to help if you can do so safely. Park far enough away from the accident to avoid stopping traffic. Put on your hazard lights to warn others. Do not approach a crashed vehicle if it is leaking gas or on fire.
  2. Ask if anyone has injuries. If someone does, call 911 to report the accident and request an ambulance. Do not move anyone with injuries unless you have to for his or her safety. Stay with the injured person to offer your support while you wait for paramedics.
  3. Offer your information as a witness. Give the parties involved in the crash your full name and contact information. The victim or his or her attorney may wish to contact you for an official statement describing what you saw.

Tell someone with an injury to lie still until emergency personnel arrives, if possible. A personal injury such as damage to the spine could worsen if the victim moves the wrong way. Keep an eye out for changing environmental conditions while you wait, such as fluids leaking from the vehicle or a downed power line. If the area becomes unsafe, move yourself and the injured party out of harm’s way.

Should You Stop and Help the Victims?

Yes, you should stop and help victims of a car accident if you can do so after witnessing a crash. As one of the first people to the scene, you may have the power to save a life. Even if you have no medical training, bringing the injured person to safety or staying with him or her while you wait for an ambulance can help. Tell the victim to remain calm and still. Only move the victim if facing immediate danger, or if it is necessary to give the victim CPR. Try to keep the victim’s body in a straight line rather than twisting or bending it if you have to move him or her. Otherwise, leave the victim where he or she is and call 911.

Good Samaritan Law in Arizona

Many civilians are cautious about avoiding liability for others’ injuries. They have stopped rendering aid in emergencies, including car accidents, for fear of the victim suing. To combat this fear, states began to pass Good Samaritan Laws. Arizona’s Good Samaritan Law (Revised Statute 36-2263) states that no person who provides assistance or emergency care in good faith and without compensation at the scene of a life-threatening emergency will be civilly liable for any resulting personal injuries.

The only exception is if you commit gross negligence or willful misconduct. If you assist someone at the scene of a serious car accident, therefore, you will not be liable for the victim’s injuries, even if you unintentionally exacerbate them. Do not be afraid to offer a helping hand as a witness to a car accident in Arizona.