What to Do As a Bystander of an Accident

Car Accident Attorneys in South Carolina Serving Clients throughout Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Clinton, and North Charleston

At the Joye Law Firm, we know that being involved in a car accident in Columbia, SC can be a harrowing experience. For victims of serious car crashes, the aftermath of a collision can be extremely difficult both physically and emotionally. Auto accidents happen much too often throughout South Carolina. Indeed, according to a South Carolina Department of Public Safety fact book, car accidents have risen in our state, resulting in serious and fatal injuries. For instance, between 2013 and 2014, the total number of traffic fatalities rose by 7.3 percent (from 767 deaths to 823 deaths), while the total number of non-fatal collisions also rose by 4.1 percent (for a total of 53,029 in 2014). While there is often a focus on what car accident victims should do after a crash in order to obtain compensation, it is also important to help bystanders—or witnesses—to car crashes to understand what they can do to help.

If you are a bystander to a traffic collision in Columbia or North Charleston, SC, what should you do? Do you have a responsibility to help injury victims? Should you take steps to record the scene of the crash? In other words, do you need to be an active witness to the accident? These are all important questions, and we will help you to think through the steps you should take as a bystander of an accident. If you have any questions, an experienced North Charleston car accident lawyer can assist you.

What Do We Mean When We Say “Bystander”?

The term bystander can have different meanings, even when it is used in reference to car accidents in Charleston, SC. In some instances, the term bystander is used to refer to a passenger in a vehicle involved in a crash. In such a case, the bystander may have played no role at all in the accident in his or her capacity as a passenger, yet the bystander may have sustained serious injuries in the crash. Indeed, it is important for South Carolina residents to acknowledge that bystanders to accidents can get hurt as a result of the crash, too. For instance, a recent report from ABC News 4 indicated that a passenger-as-bystander in a North Charleston police chase sustained fatal injuries when the driver collided with another vehicle.

Yet bystanders can also be those who were not involved in the accident at all, but instead only witnessed it occur from a safe distance. For instance, you may have been standing on the sidewalk on Queen Street in downtown Charleston when two cars collided within your line of sight. Or, you may have been driving on I-26 in North Charleston when two or more vehicles in front of you on the highway collided.

Steps for Bystanders to Take After Witnessing a Car Accident in North Charleston

If you were a bystander to a crash in which you also sustained injuries, it is important to take steps to prepare for filing a car accident claim, including:

  • Collecting contact information for the driver(s);
  • Collecting insurance information for the driver(s);
  • Taking photographs at the scene of the accident;
  • Seeking immediate medical attention; and
  • Discussing your case with a North Charleston car accident attorney.

If you did not sustain injuries in the crash, then what are your obligations after witnessing the accident? As an article in Psychology Today makes clear, the “bystander effect” often results in those who witness accidents (or other incidents) assuming that someone else will call the police or will step in to help. As such, many bystanders simply do nothing after bearing witness to an auto accident. If you are a bystander to an accident and are able to do so, you should consider the following:

  • Call 911 to report the accident (if you do not, it may take awhile before anyone knows about the collision and sends emergency responders to the scene);
  • Help to provide information once law enforcement and/or emergency responders arrive at the scene of the crash; and
  • Take photographs of the scene if one or more of the injury victims is unable to do so.

The Question of Bystander Liability and the Good Samaritan Act

You might be wondering whether you should assist an injury victim in a car accident. While you are not obligated to do so by law, the law does protect you in the event that you do not actually help the person (or in fact cause harm). Under South Carolina’s “Good Samaritan Act” (Section 15-1-310), “any person, who in good faith gratuitously renders emergency care at the scene of an accident or emergency to the victim . . . shall not be liable for any civil damages for any personal injury as a result of any act or omission by such person in rendering the emergency care.”

In other words, if you make a good faith effort to help someone, you are not liable if you fail to help or actually do more harm in the process of trying to assist. This law is in place to encourage bystanders to provide assistance at the scene of an accident without having to worry about liability issues.

Contact a North Charleston Car Accident Lawyer

If you have questions about South Carolina’s car accident laws or filing a claim, a dedicated car accident attorney in North Charleston can help. Contact the Joye Law Firm today to learn more about our services.