Witnessing a car accident can be scary and stressful, whether it’s a minor accident, a hit and run or a fatal crash. You may not know what to do or how you can provide assistance in that kind of traumatic situation. At Integrity Spine and Orthopedics, we’re no strangers to car accident scenes and injuries. We’re here to help you answer a question you’ll likely encounter at some point in your life: What do I do after I see a car accident near me?
First, try to remain calm. The drivers in the crash may be stunned, frightened or injured. You can do a lot of good by remaining calm, calling for help and relaying important information to EMS and the police. Keep reading to learn how to be a prepared bystander if you witness a car crash.
If you witness a vehicle crash and stop to help, don’t rush straight into the accident scene. There may be fire, smoke, glass, debris or other hazards that could put you in danger too. Pull your car over to a safe place — or stand in a safe place if you’re a pedestrian or biker — and call 911 from a distance.
Even if the accident appears minor with very little damage, you should call the authorities to report the crash. Don’t assume that one of the drivers or passengers has already called 911. The parties involved may be seriously injured and unable to call for help. Give the operator as much detail as you can about the number or people involved and the location.
After you call the authorities, if the scene appears clear, proceed cautiously to the vehicles. Watch out for sharp glass and debris from the accident.
If it’s safe for you to enter the scene, the first thing you should do is check on the status of the drivers and passengers. Unless someone is in imminent danger, don’t offer medical assistance or move an injured person from their location. If you’re not a trained professional, you may make the situation worse by providing improper aid or moving someone with a significant injury. Wait for EMS to arrive on the scene.
You can make a basic, visual assessment for injuries to provide EMS with as much information as possible when the paramedics arrive. One of the most common car accident injuries is a concussion. An injured driver or passenger may have a concussion if they:
If you notice any of the above signs or symptoms, your primary job is to help the injured party stay calm and not move until help arrives. If you’re not a trained medical professional, don’t play the hero and try to offer medical aid.
While you may encounter a scary situation — like a fatal crash or a severely injured, unresponsive driver — the most heroic act you can take is to call for help and wait for the professionals to arrive. Providing untrained medical aid may place someone’s life in greater danger and leave you vulnerable to lawsuits. If it’s a true emergency, the 911 operator may be able to walk you through providing basic CPR, first aid or compression (for bleeding) until EMS arrives.
Keep in mind that car accidents may be tense, highly emotional scenes. You should provide as much help as you can without inserting yourself unnecessarily into the situation or becoming a nuisance. In some cases, the best thing you can do is call 911, stay out of the way and wait for the authorities to arrive. In other cases, if drivers and passengers are scared or in shock, you can be a reassuring presence to offer a few kind words and let everyone know help is on the way. You can also offer practical, useful assistance if someone needs to use your cell phone, borrow a pen and paper or move their car to a safer place off the road. If necessary, provide assistance by helping everyone move to a sidewalk or parking lot, or setting up roadblocks and warning signals for other drivers.
Never discuss fault or try to mediate a conflict between the drivers involved in the accident. Only discuss details of the crash with the police and the drivers’ insurance companies if you’re contacted by them down the road.
When the police arrive, give them your contact information and relay all the details you know about the vehicle crash. Don’t try to speculate about who was at fault. Instead, give a truthful accounting of what you witnessed. If the accident was a hit and run, try to remember as many details as you can about the type and color of the other car, the license plate and which way the car drove away.
You may be contacted by the drivers’ insurance companies in the future, if either or both parties file a claim. Be truthful with the insurance companies as well. It may help you to write down details of the accident as soon as you get home that day. That way, if insurance representatives or the police contact you again several weeks down the line, you’ll still have the details on hand.
At Integrity Spine and Orthopedics, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons have the training and expertise to diagnose and treat whiplash, concussions, soft tissue injuries, fractures and spinal damage caused by car crashes. If you or someone you know has been in a car crash and suffered injuries, encourage them to reach out to our care team. We have multiple treatment options to help our patients get back on their feet and back to doing the activities they love.
Call us at 904-456-0017 or fill out our online contact form to request an appointment.