So, you are driving to work, and you see another motorist who is clearly in more rush than you. They quickly speed past you, and you curse them under your breath. Suddenly, you hear a loud noise and see the same car that just sped by you crashed into another vehicle at a nearby intersection.
From cursing, now you become a car accident witness. So, what are you supposed to do in such a case?
Should you stay at the accident scene and give a statement to the police? Or is it enough if you just note down the car registration number and drive away? Does the accident concern you in any way?
While most of us instinctively want to help after seeing an accident, others would also be worried about getting involved and would rather drive away. So, what should you do if you witness a car accident?
Read on to learn everything you need to know about being a car accident witness and your legal obligations.
Should I Stay at the Accident Scene If I Witness a Car Accident?
The truth is that no law requires you to stay at the accident scene if you witness a car accident. So, legally, you are free to drive away if you want to.
However, while you are not required by law to stop and give a statement, it is still the right thing to do. Your testimony could be vital in helping the police piece together what happened and identify the liable party.
Moreover, if anyone is injured in the accident, they will likely need all the help they can get. You could provide first-aid or even save a life if you are a trained medical professional.
If the victims have been injured and can’t call the emergency services themselves, you should do it for them. You should also stay at the accident scene until help arrives.
Of course, if you decide to stay and help, ensure it is safe to do so. For example, if the accident happened in a busy intersection, it might be best to direct traffic around the scene until the police arrive.
What Should I Do If I Decide to Stay?
If you witness an accident and decide to stay, here are a few things you should do:
- Check for injuries and provide first-aid if necessary
- Call the police
- Give a statement to the police about what you saw
- Exchange contact information with the other parties involved, as well as any other witnesses
You need to remember that you may be a critical witness in an accident case. So, it is important that you give an accurate account of what you saw to the police.
Do not try to guess what happened or make assumptions. Just stick to the facts and leave the investigation to the professionals.
If there are some things you didn’t see happen but heard about from the other parties involved, make it clear to the police that you didn’t witness those events yourself.
What If I Don’t Stay at the Accident Scene?
As we said, the law does not require you to stop and give a statement if you witness a car accident. So, if you don’t want to or can’t stay, you can drive away.
However, even if you don’t stay, you can still call the police and inform them about the accident. This will help them investigate and potentially catch the liable party.
Moreover, if you have any information that could be helpful to the police, such as the license plate number of one of the involved vehicles, be sure to pass it on.
Your information could be helpful, especially if it was a hit-and-run case, since the police will have a better chance of catching the culprit.
Should I Give a Statement to the Insurance Company?
If you give a statement to the police about an accident as a witness, the insurance companies will likely get a copy of it. So, there is no need to give a separate statement to the insurer.
Moreover, if you give a statement to the insurance company, you might accidentally say something that could be used against you, or the other parties involved in the accident. So, it is usually best to just stick to giving a statement to the police.
What Are My Rights as a Witness?
As a witness, you have certain rights that should be respected. These include the right to:
- Remain anonymous if you don’t want to give your name
- Refuse to answer questions if you don’t feel comfortable doing so
- Leave the accident scene if you want to
Of course, as we mentioned, it is still the right thing to do if you stay and help. But you should only do so if you feel safe and comfortable doing so.
You might be unsure of what to do if you witness a car accident. However, it is usually best to call the police and give them a statement about what you saw.
Of course, if it is safe to do so, you can also provide first-aid or other assistance to the victims until help arrives. But you are not required by law to do so.
So, if you don’t want to or can’t stay, you can drive away. However, even if you leave, you can still call the police and give them any information that could be helpful to the investigation.