Ask an attorney: What should I do if I witness an accident?

This article is written by Peters and Associates.

 

Witnessing a car crash — especially if there are injuries — can be stressful and all too common in the Las Vegas Valley. Knowing what to do when you’ve witnessed a wreck is important and can potentially save a life.

The Nevada Department of Public Safety reports there were 291 traffic fatalities and 1,209 serious injury crashes in 2014, and in 2013, 1 in 5 traffic fatality victims was a motorcyclist. Furthermore, motorcyclists are 26 -times more likely to die after a wreck than someone in a car.

As summer and riding season continue to heat up, we can expect more cars and motorcyclists on the road, and perhaps more crashes. Familiarize yourself with these tips to ensure you’re prepared if you witness a wreck.

1. If you’re driving, safely pull over to the side of the road, keeping a healthy distance from the crash site (at least 100 feet), and turn on your hazard lights. Be sure you’re in a safe location and aren’t putting yourself or others in danger.

2. If you believe there were injuries, if airbags deployed, or if there were multiple cars and/or a motorcyclist involved, call 911 immediately. Be ready to give the responder the location of the crash and any other relevant information.

3. When you’re sure it’s safe to check on the crash scene, do so cautiously and calmly. Maintain your composure to the best of your ability; being a source of calm during the stressful moments after a wreck is invaluable.

4. Ask if everyone is OK and offer help if you’re able. Make sure everyone is off to the side of the road if possible and that all the vehicles’ ignitions are off.

5. Do not move anyone who is injured. Doing so could do more harm. Only move an injured person if there is a risk that one of the vehicles may catch fire; otherwise, just wait for medical responders to arrive.

6. If there was a motorcyclist involved, do not remove his or her helmet. The rider could be suffering from vertebral fractures or worse, and removing the helmet could potentially be fatal. If the rider is not breathing and has no pulse, do not remove their helmet to perform CPR, however, you may perform chest compressions until help arrives.

7. If someone is injured but conscious, give assurances that help is on the way and ask the person not to move until the ambulance arrives.

8. If the scene is secure and you’re not putting yourself or anyone else at risk, take pictures and videos of the scene. The victims of the crash may be incapacitated or otherwise unable to do so, so getting pictures can be helpful to them and the police in the aftermath.

9. Remain on the scene and provide a statement to the police. Always be completely honest and objective when talking to law enforcement officials.

If you’re involved in a wreck resulting in injury or death, it’s a felony to leave the scene until you’ve given the required information and the injured person has been tended to. A police officer will be able to tell you when you can leave. Under the same law, anyone involved in an accident with injury or death has a “duty to render aid.” This means providing reasonable assistance to anyone who has been injured, but it does not require you to personally tend to their injuries. Rendering aid can mean calling for an ambulance and waiting for professional help to arrive.

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If you have a question you’d like to see answered by an attorney in a future issue, please write to questions@PandALawFirm.com or visit PandaLawFirm.com.

Please note: The information in this column is intended for general purposes only and is not to be considered legal or professional advice of any kind. You should seek advice that is specific to your problem before taking or refraining from any action and should not rely on the information in this column.

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