- Can a Friend or Family Member Qualify as a Witness When You’ve Been in a Car Accident?
Can a Friend or Family Member Qualify as a Witness When You’ve Been in a Car Accident?
Anyone involved in an accident (whether you’re a driver, a passenger, or even a passerby), can serve as a witness for legal purposes. However, if you’re a relative or personal friend of the driver, your credibility could be called into question when you testify. Knowing that could happen, you want to be sure you’re able to recount exact details from the accident, and with as little emotion as possible.
Also remember that perjury (lying under oath) can result in felony charges lodged against you, and conviction on a perjury charge can lead to up to 15 years of prison time in Michigan. So do not overstate what you observed or misrepresent what actually happened as you saw it. In most cases, we recommend witnesses called to testify should be people with no stake in the case’s outcome to prevent such issues as conflict of interest from arising in court.
What You Should Do at the Scene of an Accident –
Five key steps to follow if you’re a witness.
Beyond considering what you might have to say in court, it can be helpful to know how to conduct yourself after witnessing an accident. Do you know how to be a good witness after a traffic incident? You’re most likely shaking your head no. Don’t worry – we’ve assembled this guide to help you handle whatever you may encounter at the scene of an accident as a witness.
It’s important to know what NOT to do at an accident scene… and that’s leaving the scene if you were in any way involved in the collision. Penalties for involved parties who leave an accident scene (if you’re a hit-and-run driver, for example) can range from misdemeanor charges with up to 90 days in jail, all the way to felony convictions resulting in 15 years in prison (if you were responsible for someone’s death and flee the scene of the accident).
On the other hand, if you’re not involved in the accident and merely saw it happen, there’s no legal responsibility for you to remain on the scene. However, we recommend you follow the “golden rule” (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) and offer whatever assistance you can provide to help the victims, both at the time of the accident and afterward — surely you’d want witnesses to offer you the same kindness if the circumstances were reversed! We recommend following these steps if you happen to observe an accident:
Step 1 – Call 911 immediately. While the people involved in the collision may have already done so, it can’t hurt for you to also ensure professional help is on the way. Make the call to ask for emergency assistance before doing anything else. This way, if you become immersed in helping victims, you’ll know you won’t be working alone for very long.
Step 2 – Turn on your hazard lights. If you’ve stopped at the scene of an accident, you don’t want to make the situation worse. Activating your car’s flashers and pulling far off the side of the road will make your own vehicle less likely to be struck by other motorists who might be distracted by the accident. And make certain to be aware of your surroundings as you approach the injured parties. Don’t let yourself become another casualty by acting hastily. Take care of yourself, so you can do the same for others. Along those same lines…
Step 3 – Assess the scene to be 100 percent sure you are safe. It won’t do anyone any good if you rush into an actively dangerous accident scene and become injured yourself. First, carefully examine the accident site to be sure there’s no oncoming traffic. If there is a fuel leak, make certain there’s nothing in the area that could ignite fumes – this includes your cell phone, burning tobacco products, or even sparks from the wrecked vehicles’ electrical components. Only after making this assessment should you approach the damaged cars to offer assistance.
Step 4 – Help injured parties if you’re able. Michigan, like most states, has a set of Good Samaritan laws that provide individuals acting in good faith some protection from legal liability if they were to further injure someone while trying to provide life-saving aid. It’s generally best to wait for professional help to arrive at an accident scene because even seemingly simple acts like helping someone get out of their vehicle can aggravate accident injuries. However, in cases where death or serious bodily injury could occur if someone does not receive immediate first aid or other help (think severe bleeding or car on fire), you will likely be protected under Michigan law if you provide them aid.
Step 5 – Give everyone involved your name and number. Let folks who were involved in the accident – as well as law enforcement officers – know that you saw what happened and remain on the scene until they’ve collected your contact information. It’s simple – you’d want any witnesses to help if you were ever in an accident, so pay it forward! You’ll feel content in knowing you did everything you could long after the accident you’ve observed is in the rearview.
Some Final Advice for Accident Witnesses.
Hopefully you will never witness (or be involved in) a car accident. But we know that with nearly 250,000 accidents in Michigan every year, the odds are likely that you’ll someday find yourself at the scene of a crash. If that happens, here’s one more way you can help the victims: Give them our number, 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946). Call us, text us, or even chat with us online. You’ll be doing them a kindness in their hour of need. Drive safely out there!