Was I Obligated?

This is not the accident I saw, but this is how my story grows every time that I retell it.

This is not the accident I saw, but this is how my story grows every time that I retell it.

I drove by a car accident the other day. It was pretty bad with one car in the middle of an intersection all smashed up, and a truck with what appeared to be cattle supplies in it. I’m guessing someone ran a red light and then took off after they hit someone. The police/ambulance hadn’t arrived yet but some people were stopping to help (most had to though as it blocked a lot of lanes). I didn’t see anyone in the smashed up car. I only got a glimpse though since as I went by in the right hand lane the left and turning lane cars blocked my view as I approached.

Should I have pulled over and walked back to see if I could help? What is my obligation? I feel bad even though I’m not sure there was anything I could do. Remember I didn’t see the accident, so there was no reason to stay for a police report. Is there anything, besides calling 911, I could/should have done? (Even though I am sure 911 had already been notified a dozen times or so).

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  1. No.

    I used to stop every time.

    I also used to work for the fire deptartment, so there was usually something useful I could do, like tell the heavy rescue and engine companies they could take their time for scratched paint.

    I decide to stop based on a few criteria:
    1) Do I have my kids with me? (18 months and 5 years)
    2) How serious does it look?
    3) Are there other people stopped?
    4) Did I see it happen?

    Not in that order.

    Inverted smoking cars with one guy standing there would get me to stop, kids or not. But usually I have the kids, so I’ll call 911 and they’ll get P.O. I can’t answer the key question: “Was anyone hurt?”

  2. You my friend have encountered a moral conundrum as old as time itself. Of course it hasn’t always involved traffic accidents. I can just imagine a cave man walking by his comrade stuck in a tar pit and asking himself the same question.

    My opinion is that if you can actually help then you should, but if you are just going to be a bystander you should go on.

    I was on a rural rode one-time when I came upon a lady and two kids who had ran out of the road and flipped over. They were in bad shape, and I didn’t know how long it was going to be before anyone else came along, so I stopped and helped get them out. One of the kids had broken his leg, and the mom had busted the windshield with her head, which as you can imagine, was not pretty. I got them away from the car, and tried to call an ambulance, but my phone wouldn’t work. So then I was left trying to figure out whether to leave them and go find a phone or stay. Thankfully, a local came by while I was pondering the dillemma and went down the road and called an ambulance.

    The most amazing this was that the events were so chaotic that I never actually learned their names, so I have no way of knowing if things worked out ok or not.

    Legally speaking, WV has what are known as good samaritan laws engrained in the common law and statutory regulations which protect you if you do help. That is unless you are someone who has speciliazed knowledge, and you make a wrong decision with that in mind. I.E. you are a doctor and move someone knowing they shouldn’t be moved.

  3. If you didn’t see it, and there are eople there helping with things under control. then you will just be in the way. I have been in those circumstances before where I called 911 just to be sure. It all comes down to common sense…

  4. If you didn’t see it and others were already stopped to help, I think you did the right thing by just clearing out. If you saw it, then maybe pull over to wait to give a statement to the police who show up – sometimes they need several eye witness accounts to figure out what happened and who, if anyone, needs to be cited for causing the accident.

  5. I didn’t see it happen, and really thought there was nothing I could do. Glad to know you all tend to agree.

    However, if you ever see me crashed somewhere, please don’t hesitate to stop and help me out a little bit. 🙂