What To Do When You See An Accident

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: July 31, 2015

It’s unfortunate but we’ve all seen accidents on the road…. The more you drive, the more likely you will to see one.

Whether it be as we pass by in a long line of traffic or we witness one right before our eyes…

Either way, we sigh in relief that it’s not us but we also give a silent prayer to those involved.

What To Do When You See An Accident

If you ever catch yourself in the midst of witnessing one and you wish to help but are unsure how, here are some key steps that you should run through to ensure the wellbeing of those involved as well as yourself and other bystanders:

SLOW DOWN and turn on your hazards:

No matter the accident, slowing down will ensure that you will not be a part of the crash. If the accident appears more critical, make sure your hazards are on for other oncoming traffic.

It may not be necessary to pull over if the crash is more of a fender bender involving two cars. It’s best not to clog up the road and keep moving.

Emergency Vehicle Space

Part of pulling over is to leave ample space for any emergency vehicles that are making their way to the crash (especially if it’s been a bad one).

Check on Drivers

IF safe for you, immediately check on the condition of those involved in the crash. This will better help you assess whether the drivers are in need of immediate attention

Call for Help

If the crash is critical, it is imperative that you call 911 immediately. Be short but CLEAR in your description of the location of the crash, people involved and potential injuries.

You are the first point of contact and making sure you are on point with a precise description will make the process smoother upon the arrival of the emergency crew.

Do NOT move the injured parties

This is crucial to follow especially if you are not qualified to tend to the injured person. Moving an injured person can worsen the injury or make it fatal.

Unless the injured person is in danger where they are, moving them should be left to the emergency crew. If you must move then, proceed with caution and recruit the help of another if possible.

If you are a qualified health professional (i.e. a doctor, nurse or paramedic) helping the injured party can alleviate or save the life of someone before the emergency professionals arrive. In this case, it is necessary to get involved.

Help Keep Traffic Moving

There are enough spectators as it is, and nothing is more tedious(and dangerous) than when people slow down to check out an accident on the highway or on the road. Be Officer Barbrady and tell them to move along, there’s nothing to see here.

Please note that if you are uncomfortable with this step, then remain away from traffic and continue to be a supporter of the injured.

At this point if  the parties involved are amenable to speak, help them exchange insurance information or take photos of the crash and their injuries.

What Did You See? Take Pictures

You are a key witness to this accident especially if you saw the car crash happen from beginning to end.

Take note of all that you saw with accuracy as you will be relaying this information to the police along with the injured people involved (if they are able and present to speak).

If they are taken away by the emergency crew, then is is imperative that you dictate to the police a clear, objective account of the crash.

Remember that if the parties involved are in critical condition, they are likely not able to take pictures of their cars or of the crash site.

Whip out that smartphone and start documenting everything. Both parties will be happy you did.


There is no doubt that this was stressful for you as well.

But as a good samaritan, we know it’s the right thing to do. If the steps above are followed, you will have likely made a terrible event a little smoother for those traumatized and injured.

Thank you to all the good samaritans out there ready and willing to help!


Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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