What Should I do if I Encounter a Car Accident?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 June 2019
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When most people encounter an accident in which a car has been involved, their first instinct is to help. In some situations, the help of a bystander can be extremely useful, and you should offer your assistance. In other cases, you are probably not needed, and should help out at the accident scene by driving slowly and cautiously past and complying with requests made by law enforcement at the site. Learn to use your judgment at a wreck scene, and remember that secondary wrecks due to rubbernecking at the site of a primary accident are not uncommon.

If you are the first person to see a car accident, you should always stop. Make sure to move your own vehicle entirely and safely off the road, and remember to park it and set the brake before turning the ignition off. Walk along the side of the road to render assistance, rather than in the roadway, and if you have road flares in your vehicle, consider setting them out as you walk towards the wreck site so that approaching drivers will be aware of the situation.


Once you reach the site, inquire after everyone's health and assess the condition of the victims. If a victim is unconscious, determine whether or not he or she has a pulse, and take note of how many victims there are. If victims can move independently, help them to safety at the side of the road. Do not move a victim who is seriously injured unless he or she is in imminent danger of death. If you or one of the victims has a mobile phone, use it to call emergency services, or flag down a passing car and ask them to call for you. Also make sure that the cars at the site are turned off, and that their parking brakes are set to prevent them from rolling.

When calling emergency services, remain calm and informative. Start by stating that the emergency is a car accident, and give the dispatcher the location of the wreck. This allows the dispatcher to send law enforcement and an ambulance immediately. Next, talk to the dispatcher about the number of victims and their condition, so that she can relay that information to the ambulance. If someone is in need of first aid, the dispatcher may guide you through it. Do not hang up until the dispatcher has told you that it is appropriate to do so.

If you have first aid training which the victims could benefit from, offer it. Most parts of the world have good Samaritan laws to protect individuals who help out at accident scenes. When emergency medical services do arrive at the scene, make sure to tell them about any first aid measures you took such as applying pressure to a wound, using chest compressions, or moving a victim. After law enforcement arrives at the scene, give the commanding officer your information, and follow his or her directions. In most cases, you will be asked to leave, if possible, to help clear the scene.


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Discuss this Article

Post 4

Isn't it amazing how quickly traffic backs up on the highway when an accident happens? Even when no lanes on the highway are blocked, traffic can come to a stand still because of rubberneckers.

Post 3

Animandel - The good Samaritan laws will protect you from being sued in most situations involving an auto accident where you are trying to aid someone. You could still be sued if you were to do something beyond reason and caused greater injury to someone, but the laws protect people who are using common sense.

Post 2

Animandel - The article mentioned the good Samaritan laws, which are designed to prevent the type of lawsuits you mentioned.

I don't know how often people who attempt to help at automobile accidents are sued, but the fact that we have good Samaitan laws means that it has happened enough not to be considered uncommon. Otherwise, why would we need laws to protect people trying to help.

Post 1

I have heard so much about people trying to help at a vehicle accident scene and then being sued by the people they were attempting to aid. Does anyone know how often this happens? I would be hesitant about helping someone because of this concern.

That may sound selfish, but it is something I think about.

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