What Do You Do If You Witness An Accident?

You’re driving home from work, and waiting at a stoplight. As the light turns green, the car in front of you pulls forward, but on the other side of the intersection, another driver is not paying attention. They also turn, and collide with the car in front of you. You’ve just witnessed an accident.

Steps to Take If You Witness a Car Accident

If you were not involved in the accident, you have no duty to stop. But if you can, it is nice to stop and see if everyone is okay. If you do make the decision to stop, make sure you can do so safely. Pull completely off the road, and turn on your emergency flashers. If you don’t move far enough from the road, a passing car might hit you, causing another accident. And of course, remember to leave space for emergency vehicles to get through! If it seems dangerous to approach the accident (for example, if one or both of the cars is on fire) do not go near it. You can still help from a distance by calling 911.

Calling 911 is important, no matter the situation. Stay calm and give the operator the details they need. Tell them where the accident occurred, how many people need medical attention, and how serious their conditions are. If you are a medical professional, do what you can to help the injured. If you are not qualified, however, leave the care to emergency personnel. Never move an injured person. That can make the injury worse, and in some cases, result in paralysis.

Take Detailed Notes of the Car Accident

Note which cars were involved, what injuries you saw, and how the accident occurred. Take pictures of the scene, or write down notes. If the drivers have a dispute over who was at fault, you may be asked to be a witness. If the drivers are hostile or confrontational towards each other at the scene, do not get involved. You may be asked to explain what you saw, but it is not up to you to make a judgment about the events. Save that for law enforcement or the attorneys and insurance agents.

It’s important to remember that helping at a car accident isn’t always the best thing you can do. If you see an accident, but can tell that others have already stopped to help, you don’t need to stop. You don’t want to get in the way. In some cases, bystanders can actually make the accident worse. If you can provide safe and competent help, your actions will likely be appreciated by the injured or stunned drivers. But if you just get in the way or cause further injury, it’s unlikely that anyone will thank you.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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