Brian White | August 14, 2017 | Auto Accidents
Witnessing a car accident can be more than just traumatic – it can also come with legal responsibilities in the state of Texas. As a bystander to a crash, you have a duty to stay on the scene and make sure everyone is okay. You may need to call for help, make victims more comfortable, and even testify during future hearings regarding the accident. After witnessing a car wreck in Houston, follow these steps to fulfill your civilian duties.
Stay Out of Danger
Guard your personal safety first and foremost. While it’s important to help others, you should not endanger your own life in the process. Only pull over if it is safe to do so. Do not stop your vehicle in the middle of the road, or you could risk causing another accident. Put your hazard lights on, and set out triangles or flares if available.
If the vehicles in the accident are leaking gas, on fire, or surrounded by broken glass, do not put yourself in harm’s way to help victims. Instead, stay a safe distance away and call the police.
Remain on the Scene
You weren’t directly involved in the accident and therefore won’t risk a hit-and-run charge if you decide to leave the scene. Texas is not one of the ten states with rules requiring one to help victims. However, you may have a moral obligation to offer assistance. Good Samaritan laws in Texas provide protection to those who offer help in good faith.
This means that if you accidentally worsen someone’s injuries by trying to help him/her after a car accident, you would not get into legal trouble. Good Samaritan laws are in place to encourage swift action from witnesses and bystanders without fear of liability for injuries.
Call for Help
Don’t assume that someone else has already called the police. Report the crash yourself and explain that you were an eyewitness. Give your name, contact information, and any important facts about the case over the phone.
In Texas, it is mandatory to report an accident to law enforcement if it results in injury, death, or property damage in excess of $1,000. When in doubt, call the police.
Wait for Officers to Arrive
Wait on the scene until law enforcement and/or paramedics arrive. Do not attempt to move injured parties unless they are in imminent danger. Moving an injured person could make a minor injury much more severe.
There may be a situation in which a paramedic is telling you how to offer help to victims over the phone. Follow instructions until the officer can arrive on the scene and take over. Make accident victims as calm and comfortable as possible while you wait.
Give a Statement
As an accident eyewitness, police officers may need to hear your side of the story. An officer may request that you provide a signed statement with details about the crash. Stick to the facts, and do not speculate about the fault. Those involved in the accident may also request your name and contact information as a witness.
It’s possible that you’ll hear from an attorney in the future about potentially testifying on behalf of one of the parties involved. It is up to you whether to accept or deny this opportunity as an eyewitness. Your testimony could be of significant help to victims in a car accident.