What to Do as a Bystander or Witness of a Car Accident

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At Finz & Finz, P.C., our New York car accident attorneys understand how traumatic car accidents can be. Accident victims often suffer severe injuries and require long-term care, significantly diminishing their quality of life.

Victims often seek compensation for their medical expenses and other losses when a car accident occurs. New York is a no-fault auto insurance state, so car accident victims often seek compensation through their personal injury protection plan, regardless of fault. However, in severe injury cases, the victim may file a third-party claim or personal injury lawsuit against the driver who caused the crash.

To bring a successful claim or lawsuit, a car accident victim who has been seriously injured must be able to demonstrate the at-fault driver’s liability. To do this, the victim (or their attorney) must gather evidence to prove their case. One of the strongest types of evidence is witness testimony. Witnesses can provide an objective view of a car accident because they usually have no stake in the case’s outcome.

If you witnessed a car accident in New York, you might be wondering what your responsibilities are. Are you required to render medical aid if someone has suffered life-threatening injuries? Do you have to report the accident to law enforcement? Should you collect evidence at the scene? Will you be required to testify on behalf of the victim?

These are essential questions to ask. Below, we’ll discuss your rights, your obligations, and how you can help accident victims. Contact the New York car accident lawyers at Finz & Finz, P.C. at 855-TOP-FIRM right away.

What is a Witness or Bystander?

Generally speaking, when it comes to car accidents, a bystander is someone who witnessed the crash. However, there are different types of witnesses.

For example, one type of witness could be a passenger involved in the crash. Even if they were injured in the crash, they could be considered a witness if they played no role in the accident.

Another type of witness could be someone standing or walking near the accident scene who saw the crash occur but was not injured. For example, if you were approaching the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street and you happened to see a motorist rear-end another vehicle, you could serve as a witness to the accident. Sometimes, witnesses are also motorists and passengers in other cars that were not involved in the crash but saw it happen.

What to Do If You Witness an Accident

If you witnessed a car accident but also sustained injuries as a result of the crash, then there are several steps you should take to protect your rights:

  • Ask for the driver’s contact details.
  • Request the driver’s insurance information.
  • Gather evidence if possible, including photographs of the scene and your injuries.
  • Seek prompt medical attention, keeping in mind that most insurance companies require you to be seen within 72-hours, or they may deny your claim.
  • Contact a New York car accident attorney to discuss your case at your earliest convenience.

If you witnessed an accident from the street or another vehicle but were not involved in or injured by the crash, you should take the following steps:

  • Call 911 and report the crash to law enforcement. It’s possible that the crash victims may not be able to call the police themselves, especially if they are injured, so it’s best to assume responsibility yourself.
  • Offer details about the crash to law enforcement when they arrive on the scene. Law enforcement officers will usually draft an accident report. You may need to provide your contact details.
  • If any accident victims are too seriously injured to gather photo evidence at the scene, consider taking photos on their behalf. You should try to get pictures of their injuries, any damage to the vehicles involved, and the accident scene as a whole.

If you can help in some way, you should consider doing so. According to Psychology Today, due to the “bystander effect,” many witnesses to car accidents don’t take action after an accident because they assume that someone else, including the police, will offer help.

However, in some cases, you might be the only person who can step in and aid the victims until emergency responders arrive. If someone is suffering from a life-threatening injury, taking immediate action could significantly impact their chances of survival.

New York’s Good Samaritan Law

Like many states, New York has a Good Samaritan law that protects bystanders from liability if they aid accident victims. You are not obligated to step in and help accident victims under the law. However, if you choose to step in and your efforts fail or cause further injury to the victim, you cannot be held liable as long as you acted in good faith to help the injured person and did so without expectation of financial gain.

The purpose of New York’s Good Samaritan law is to encourage bystanders to render aid without fear of being held liable in civil court.

Contact Finz & Finz, P.C.

Were you seriously injured in a car accident in New York City or on Long Island? If so, contact the New York car accident attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C. today to discuss your case. We have extensive experience helping victims of car accidents pursue the compensation they need to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.

If you hire us to represent you, we will thoroughly investigate the accident, gather evidence to support your case, speak with bystanders who may have witnessed the accident, document and calculate your losses, and aggressively pursue the settlement you deserve.

Contact Finz & Finz, P.C. today to discuss your case. We offer a free consultation to all potential clients.


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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.