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Are There Consequences to Acting as a Witness in a Car Accident?

Jun 25, 2020 | Auto Accident

You’re walking down the street at a busy interaction. The traffic lights are about to turn green in your direction and give you a pass to cross the street. Then, in front of your eyes, one car collides with another. The collision is significant, and damages to both vehicles are evident. Each driver gets out of their car and claims the other is at fault for the car accident. 

What do you do if you witnessed the auto accident and know precisely which driver made the mistake that led to the collision? Are there consequences to acting as a witness in a car accident.

Serving as an eyewitness at the scene of a car accident may seem like a hassle, but your account of what happened is essential. You may still have natural concerns about being caught in the middle of a dispute over fault if there is a disagreement between drivers. So, what is the best course of action to protect your rights and peace of mind if the confrontation turns ugly or insurance adjusters hassle you later down the road?

Proving Fault in Car Accidents

There are thousands of motor vehicle accidents on the road every year in America. When you average out the statistics, more than 100 vehicle accidents occur every day in the United States.

Consequently, there is a high likelihood that either you’ll be involved in an auto accident at some point in your life, or you’ll witness an automobile accident that didn’t involve your vehicle or impact your personal welfare. What do you do if your situation falls into the latter category? 

Figuring out who is at fault in an MVA/motor vehicle accident is not always crystal clear. Though there are many minor accidents in which one driver is obviously at fault and also takes responsibility for the crash, there are many possible incidents in which the answer is not nearly as straightforward.

For example, it’s difficult to determine fault in accidents that involve multiple cars or pedestrians. It’s especially tricky when the drivers involved in the crash disagree on who caused the accident. For this reason, any witnesses of the accident generally prove invaluable to determining fault.

The reason determining fault is so important is because it pinpoints who acted negligently and is therefore liable for personal injuries and property damage associated with the collision.

States handle car accidents and who is at fault differently. Still, the fact remains clear that if a witness can say with the utmost confidence that they saw who was in the wrong in the crash, their testimony is incredibly crucial for the victims attempting to seek financial relief for their injuries or damages.

What Do You Do If You Witness a Car Accident? 

A witness of a car accident could be someone directly involved in the accident (i.e., a member in the passenger seat), yet those witnesses have the strongest possibility of being biased. An even better and more legitimate witness is a third-party member that observed the accident from another car or from the street. 

Impartial witnesses are the best evidence in many auto accident cases because they can provide details of what happened immediately before the accident. Their perspective is often crucial for police officers or insurance adjusters seeking to determine who is at fault

However, some citizens wonder if they should get involved at all. If the car crash turns confrontational or physical, you may worry about putting yourself in harm’s way or potentially being threatened by the driver you claim was in the wrong.

While it’s natural for witnesses not to want to get harassed or summoned to court to give an official account of what happened, sharing your account is the right thing to do. The reality is that most car accident disputes never make it to the courtroom, meaning your chances of getting summoned and having to miss work are low. 

The purpose of most car accident cases is to have the insurance providers settle the dispute in negotiations and pay back drivers who suffered damages from the accident. Depending on the state and its at-fault rules, the driver’s insurance provider or the insurance provider of the other driver may have to cover damages. 

Acting as a witness can help a case get settled quicker. Your formal statement to the police at the scene of the accident is usually all the authorities need to help finalize the case. Unless criminal charges are being filed in the auto accident (i.e., drunk driving), you’re not likely to have to deal with the matter again. However, if you feel threatened or harassed because of your stance as a witness to a car accident, it’s time to speak to an attorney.

What to Do If You Witness a Car Accident

Car accidents are shocking and horrifying, even for the people not directly involved. As a result, you should prepare yourself and remember the actions to take if you witness a collision:

  1.    Protect yourself first. Make sure you are safe, then you can attend to others if they are injured. However, avoid doing more harm than good if the scene is dangerous—if you see flames or broken glass, keep your distance. You also don’t want to pick anyone up if they may have suffered head or spinal injuries.
  2.   Call 911. Regardless of the severity of the accident, it’s helpful to notify the authorities. You’ll be able to provide a formal written statement to the police about what you saw at the scene of the accident once they arrive.
  3.   If you can offer help or support to the victims, don’t hesitate. However, depending on the severity of the accident, it’s sometimes best not to overstep your boundaries if you observe serious injuries or even death.
  4.   Once the police arrive, notify the officer that you were a witness to the accident. It may take a few minutes, but eventually, the officer will want to get a statement from you based on your witness account.
  5.   The police, insurance agency, or medical authorities may want to contact you after the fact. Therefore, it’s vital to share contact information with the authorities if you feel comfortable doing so.

Did You Witness a Car Accident? Consider Seeking Legal Counsel

Serving as an eyewitness to an MVA/motor vehicle accident may seem like a chore or hassle, but it’s worth it to ensure justice is served. In many situations, an eyewitness account makes the difference between making sure the person who is at fault is held responsible. Proving fault goes a long way in determining negligence and liability, which can help car accident victims receive financial damages later down the road for their injuries.

Speak to an attorney if you need representation after acting as a witness. You should never feel pressed to change your story of what you witnessed, no matter if you feel pressure from one of the drivers, the police, or insurance agents. Contact us today at 1 (800) 33-33-LAW or through our website for more information about getting representation based on your testimony.

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