Written by Carter Capner Law

Updated on June 27, 2024

Witnessing a car accident can be a shocking and stressful experience. Knowing what to do in such situations is crucial for ensuring the safety of everyone involved and complying with legal obligations, especially in Queensland. This guide outlines the essential steps to take if you witness a car accident.

Ensure Safety First

1. Your Safety First:
Before taking action, ensure your safety. Do not put yourself in danger. Look for potential hazards such as:

  • oncoming traffic
  • fire
  • leaking fuel
  • or fallen power lines.

If it’s safe, pull your car to the side of the road, turn off your engine, and put on your hazard lights.

Provide Immediate Assistance

2. Check on the Accident Victims:
If it is safe to approach the scene, check to see if the individuals involved in the accident are injured. Offer assistance, but avoid moving injured persons unless there is an immediate danger, such as a fire. Provide reassurance and wait for emergency services to arrive.

3. Call Emergency Services:
Dial 000 to report the accident, providing the operator with the location, number of vehicles involved, and any known injuries. If it is a hit-and-run, try to provide the make and model of the car, its number plate, and the direction it was heading.

Legal Obligations

4. Report the Accident to Police:
Under Queensland law, accidents must be reported to the police if there are injuries, fatalities, or significant property damage (exceeding $2500). The police have wide powers to gather information about the accident and may conduct on-scene investigations. Provide your name, address, and a statement about what you witnessed if requested by the police or involved parties.

Document the Scene

5. Document the Scene:
If possible, take photos of the vehicles, any damage, license plates, and the surrounding area. Note the time, weather conditions, and any other relevant details. This documentation can be crucial for insurance claims and legal proceedings.

6. Provide Your Details:
Offer your contact information to the drivers involved in the accident. Your statement can be crucial evidence for insurance claims or legal proceedings.

Offer Support

7. Stay with the Injured:
If someone is injured, stay with them until emergency services arrive. Offer reassurance and keep them calm. Cooperate fully with the police and other emergency responders to ensure that the accident is handled smoothly and all necessary information is recorded.

Additional Practical Tips

8. Know Basic First Aid:
Having basic first aid knowledge can be invaluable in an accident. If someone is severely injured, knowing how to administer CPR or stop bleeding until professional help arrives can make a significant difference.

9. Keep Emergency Supplies in Your Car:
It’s a good idea to keep a basic emergency kit in your car. This can include items like a first aid kit, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher, and a blanket.

10. Understand Your Rights and Responsibilities:
Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations regarding accidents in your area. Knowing your rights and responsibilities can help you handle the situation more effectively and avoid legal complications.

Importance of Compliance with QLD Laws

Legal Implications:
Failing to stop, provide information, or assist those injured can result in severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment, as outlined in the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 (Qld) and the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld). These penalties highlight the seriousness of the offence.

Moral Responsibility:
There is a significant moral responsibility to provide assistance to those who may be injured. Stopping to help can make a critical difference in the outcome for injured parties and demonstrates empathy and responsibility.

Public Trust and Safety:
Adhering to the rules fosters a sense of accountability and responsibility on the roads, helping maintain public trust and ensuring accidents are managed efficiently.

Financial and Legal Consequences:
Non-compliance can lead to substantial financial penalties and potential imprisonment. Additionally, a criminal record resulting from non-compliance can limit future opportunities, including employment and travel.

Final Thoughts

Witnessing a car accident requires a calm and measured response. Ensuring the safety of everyone involved, providing assistance, and complying with legal obligations are paramount. By following these steps, you can make a significant difference in the aftermath of an accident and help ensure that the incident is managed appropriately.

For more detailed information, refer to the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 (Qld) and the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld).

Note: This guide is intended to provide a general overview and should not be considered legal advice. For specific cases and legal assistance, it is recommended to consult with a qualified legal professional.