Should I stay at the scene if I am involved in a car accident?

by Timothy P. Heather, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Don’t leave the scene of an accident unless a medical emergency requires you to do so.  Generally, it is better for you to wait for an ambulance and trained medical personnel to arrive and assess any needed medical treatment.  Leaving an accident scene in which you were involved makes you look bad, even if the accident wasn’t your fault, and may subject you to criminal penalties.

You should call 911 to report where your accident occurred and if anyone is hurt so that law enforcement and emergency medical personnel can be sent as quickly as possible, if necessary.  If you don’t have a cell phone on you, see if the other driver has one, or see if a passing motorist will call 911.  Attend to the immediate medical needs of those persons in your car and the other car.  Don’t move anyone unless it is necessary to prevent more serious injury.  Unless you are qualified to do so, limit your aid to basic emergency treatment involving bleeding, breathing and shock which you feel competent to handle.

Take immediate steps to prevent further injury, first by warning other motorists of the accident and second, by moving vehicles, but only if necessary.  If not necessary to move vehicles, don’t do so, for it may be helpful to the responding law enforcement officer to view the placement of the vehicles in determining who should be cited.  If you can’t warn other motorists directly, because you are injured or helping others, see if somebody else can signal oncoming vehicles from a safe position.  It is always a good idea to have flares, reflectors, and flashlights in your car which can be quite helpful in warning others, particularly at night.

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