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What to do when encountering an auto accident

These blogs are posted on behalf of Seidel, Cohen, Hof & Reid, LLC, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the firm or its attorneys. The information presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

What would you do if you were the first person to arrive on the scene of an auto accident along a Pennsylvania roadway? Many people jump right into action and go about trying to save any victims from further harm. While this is certainly a heroic thing to do, it also could be considered incorrect and even dangerous to everyone involved.

Unless you possess medical or life-saving abilities, one of the most important things you can do is collect pertinent information and relay that data to emergency crews by calling 911, according to the deputy chief at the Monroe County Control Center in Snydersville, Pennsylvania.

Most of this valuable information pertains to the location of the accident. If you approach an accident and need to report it to emergency crews, you will need to provide the name of the street as well as landmarks near by, like area businesses or intersections. If injuries sustained by victims are severe enough, forcing emergency crews to wander around looking for the accident could be a matter of life or death.

Another reason why emergency workers suggest that civilians not jump right into action is fear that they will compromise their own health. Following a car accident, there are a number of hazards that could still injure those around the scene. This could range from downed electrical lines to vehicle fires that could cause an explosion. If a car is resting on its hood or side, it could flip back over with little notice and crush anyone near by.

This does not mean civilians should not help out. But they need to stand back and collect such information as how many occupants are in the vehicle and what their physical condition appears to be. Dispatchers through 911 can walk a civilian through the process.

If a civilian does decide to act in order to try to save a life, they can not be held liable for any damage they cause to a person or property during their efforts per the Good Samaritan Act. The only exception is if the civilian was grossly negligent in their efforts.

Source: Pocono Record, "Crash course: What to do if you're the first to see a roadside emergency," Amy Leap, April 5, 2012

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