Is It Illegal to Leave the Scene of an Accident If You Weren’t Involved?

witnessing a car accident -- legal duties

A lot of you have questions on whether you have a legal responsibility if you witness a car accident. While the event may be traumatic, one quickly wonders whether their help could put them at risk of legal issues by way of causing additional harm – or providing no help at all.

Your mind is in conflict as you want to help the person while also knowing help is on the way. Your sudden actions could cause serious harm to the parties involved. Or, it could save a life.

Here’s the answer to if you are required by law to stop if you witness an accident: NO.

You are also not required to stop at the scene of the accident as there is no general law dictating a persons’ duty. This only applies if you did not cause the accident.

However, this may depend on your location.

Good Samaritan Laws and Doing the Right Thing

Samaritans operating in good faith when they witness and try helping during an accident are not prosecuted for harm. This falls under the Good Samaritan Law, which you may read in full detail here.

How you interact with medical personnel and the police is up-to-you.

  • Stay and provide a detailed account
  • Provide dash cam footage if available

It’s best to stay at the scene of an accident if it’s major as it could provide helpful information for those providing medical assistance. Your statement may also help the victim(s) and save them from financial issues down-the-line as they handle medical bills and file insurance claims.

Likewise, stopping to provide a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on is a good thing.

Small incidents – like fender benders – aren’t as big a deal. It’s up to your judgment but do know you’re in the clear if you’re wondering if you need to stop after witnessing an accident.

What If I Caused the Accident? You Must Stay

If you did cause the accident:

  • You must stop else you are penalized as a “hit and run”
  • You will likely be found and bring on a slew of legal troubles
  • You are potentially risking someone’s life by abandoning the scene

In the case you are involved, immediately call 9-1-1 and wait for medical assistance. You should also move away from the scene of the accident if it’s near a busy road (to avoid being hit). Then, you need to cooperate with the police and file the appropriate paperwork.