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For most people, witnessing a highway crash means stopping what they're doing and assisting however way they can, whether that means calling authorities, helping to push disabled vehicles off the road, warning and diverting oncoming traffic, or providing lifesaving measures.

The rewards for those helping distressed and/or injured strangers can vary, however.

In September, a Boston city worker witnessed a taxi leave the road and smash into a tree, badly injuring the passenger. The worker ran to help and ended up pulling the passenger out of the car moments before the vehicle turned into a fireball. The passenger is recovering and the local fire chief publicly praised the Good Samaritan's actions.

California resident Lisa Torti, on the other hand, received no such praise in 2004 after she pulled a friend out of a wrecked car that she thought was going to explode. Sued by the former friend who claimed Torti yanked her "like a rag doll," leaving her a paraplegic, the case made national headlines two years ago when California's 1980 Emergency Medical Service Act, protecting Good Samaritans from lawsuits, was challenged by the victim's lawyers. The courts ultimately ruled 4-3 that only those administering professional medical care have immunity, and the case proceeded. But in August of 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzegger signed Assembly Bill 83, extending protection to all Californians who assist victims during crashes, effective immediately, so the Torti case never went to trial.

If you find yourself the witness of an accident, here are six key tips to keep in mind. The following are the steps you should take when you see a vehicle collision:

- If you're the first person at a vehicle crash, pull completely off the road, preferably 100 feet or more away from the collision. Turn on your emergency flashers. Emergency personnel have to be able to see the collision and stop next to it for easy access.

- Check to see if anyone is injured. Keep your distance from the vehicle, however, and don't touch any of the people in the accident. At this point you are just trying to assess what happened.

- Call 9-1-1. If another person stops to help, ask that person to call 9-1-1. The person calling 9-1-1 must be ready to answer questions and provide as much information as they can, such as the location of the emergency (cross streets, freeway on/off ramp information) and how many people need help (is anyone bleeding, unconscious, or without a pulse?).

- Help anyone who is not already walking around and talking. Do not move an injured person unless he or she is in a burning vehicle or in other danger. Moving someone incorrectly often makes an injury worse.

- If possible, assist the driver of the wrecked vehicle in moving the car out of the traffic lane. Do not drive the vehicle yourself unless instructed to do so by a police officer or emergency worker.

- If you happen to have a camera on you, you will be doing the drivers of the accident a service by taking a few pictures. Be prepared to hand these over to law enforcement or the drivers themselves.

What are your obligations and liabilities if you come across a crash and want to help? It varies state-to-state; HeartSafe America provides an official list.

My personal experience is practical. I'll always pull over and I'll always help – or at least try.
Last week I was running on the pedestrian path next to the West Side Highway in my Manhattan neighborhood after dark and I came upon a tractor trailer who had tried to make it under an underpass and gotten stuck. North side traffic was severely backed up because this trucker was blocking two lanes – trucks, vans and semis aren't allowed on the highway partly for that reason. I saw him get out of his cab and flag down a car, and the car slowed and stopped right next to the driver's door of the truck. Now all three lanes were completely blocked.

The conversation went on a good 30 seconds as the chorus of horns started blowing behind them. I jogged over and, pointing to a spot out of the line of traffic and said to the car driver, "Hi, maybe you want to pull your car in front of the truck and have this conversation - do you see all those thousands of cars behind you?

They both looked at me as though I was a cow that had wandered onto the highway, and turned back to their conversation. I shrugged and jogged off. I'm not a cop, after all.

People react differently in situations like these. In most cases you will find people willing to help, but you need to make sure you are smart about how you lend a land. Keep our tips in mind and you'll be in a good position to help without getting yourself in trouble.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 94 Comments
      Warren D
      • 1 Month Ago
      @ superbwon ( talk about a misnomer!) Before you attempt to play Spell Check Cop, you need to check your own. One takes a "course", not a "coarse".Not let some of that self-righteous air out of yourself, and go take a COURSE in basic english and spelling.
      fester4525
      • 1 Month Ago
      Oh, and by the way, one of the MAJOR reasons that all this crap (suing) is taking place is due to the "BOTTOM FEEDING" attorneys that will sue for just about any thing. I look forward to the day that they are on the recieving end of such a horrible lawsuit, and lose every thing they screwed every one out of!
      • 1 Month Ago
      Do a quick scene assessment. In the case cited of a struck utility pole, were there wires down, were they in contact with the care or in danger of becoming in contact with either you or the car. Many people have been killed or critically injured bby contacting energized vehicles. It may be necessary for you to instruct the driver of the vehicle to remain inside the vehicle and not to try to exit it until energized lines have been removed or deenergized., Understand that if the power lines are down on a hill above the level of the vehicle and have fallen away from the vehicle, there exists avery real potential for ground induced energization to take place (especially with high voltage lines) that could feed into the depressed area where the vehicle is located. Staying on the blacktop surface may provide some degree of insulation, but stepping into a damp or grassy area increases your risk factor by several orders of magnitude! Again important information to be relayed to the dispatch center so that utility crews can be immediately dispatched and first responder personnel given a heads up prior to arrival. Also look for signs or smells indicative of fuel leakage (including natural gas leakage from vehicles so fueled) that could pose additional hazards for explosion or fire. In the event that air bags have not already been deployed, it is possible that movement of the victim (especially in side impact collisions) may cause the deployment of air bags as wiring is moved allowing the circuits to complete the deployment which was interrupted by the force of the accident breaking electrical connections. Several firefighters have been injured during extrication activities as this has occurred. I have been a firefighter/ rescue and EMT training instructor, and paramedic for over 40 years, and these tips come from real-world experience incidents that I have encountered over the years.
      • 1 Month Ago
      January of 2007, I was involved in a rollover after some idiot cut me off. My SUV rolled over a trotal of 10x before it alnding on it's roof. Two sisters came to my aide and assisted me they unfastened my seatbelt and turing off my vehicle, when I made it to the cargo area of my SUV, a doctor on his way to his office was there telling me to stay put, an off duty EMT worker was there assisting the doctor by taking my vitals; both telling me to stay put until the rescue truck arrives and a lady was there also praying for me and thanking God for allowing me to survive; there was another man there hold my hand and talking to keep me awake. The doctor instructed how let the EMT employees do their job in getting out of my truck once they'd arrived. Notice not even the doctor did attempted to get me out of the truck.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Not mentioned....TURN IGNITION KEY OFF or DISCONNECT BATTERY.
      Commander B
      • 1 Month Ago
      The best thing to do is keep driving and don't stop. Trying to help gets you sued and if the person is a maniac he/she may try to do harm to you. Also while you park your car on the side you are still subject to being hit by oncoming traffic. Say a prayer and just keep on moving.
      Barbara
      • 1 Month Ago
      I never ever stop at an accident, because in spite of myself, I am NOT calm under pressure. I panic. The best I can do is to call 911. I'm not afraid of litigation or the time out of my life it might take to assist the victims, I just realize that I am not capable of doing much of anything to help. Thankfully I've never been the lone witness to an accident.
      • 1 Month Ago
      As the economy gets worse I have noticed an increase in aggressive driving and lack of consideration for others on the road, as a consequence accidents are on the rise. People show a lack of respect not seen only a few years ago. The attitude is "it's all about me" and "i'm getting mine. In addition, I see an increased lack of proper training or an ignoreing of them when it comes to rules of the road. People trying to beat the other person at 4 way stops, not useing turn signals, Speeding in order to overtake and pass someone only to slow down again once they do so simply to make themselves feel better about their sorry lives. The latest I witnessed around the Lexington Ky. area during the ice and snow they had last week. MORE people came out to drive and they were speeding much faster than normal! There were cars all in the ditches but it didn't slow those still on the road at all. I had one SUV fly by me doing 25 mph over the limit on this icy road only to pass him again about 2 miles down the road as he sat on his side in the ditch in the meridian. Help? Yeah, I helped, I beeped my horn and waved as I went by. He probably thought that in addition to the vehicles size making up for his lack of ego and genetalia size it would also protect him from accidents in such weather;probably due to the commercials he saw of the vehicle on a mountain top somewhere. What i'm saying is, keep in mind the economy is bad, sue is the American way of making money, and accidents are caused by someone being a dumb A** at some point just prior to the accident occuring. If a vehicle is burning I will pull someone out if possi ble but I won't physically touch anyone other than to remove them from an obvious danerous situation. Other than that I call authoities and try to warn traffic.
      Stan
      • 1 Month Ago
      Camera are the best at bringing out the truth of the matter. A friend of mine was stopped in a double left hand turn lane when the Mustang driver (on his cell phone) drove into the side of her company owned vehicle. Cops were called and didn't come as other police officers just drove by. Finally he convinced her to pull the vehicles onto the far side of the turn to let traffic by. An hour later a cop showed up and talked to him first. He told the cop that she cut him off as they went through the turn lane and the cop believed him. My friend told the cop what happened and she had no idea that he didn't believe her. He wrote out the ticket, handed it to her and went on his way. The Mustang driver just grinned at her and drove off. However she had one of those disposable cameras and had used it to take photos of the accident before they moved the vehicles. The company wanted to charge her with an accident in a company vehicle because she had gotten the ticket. She got the photos developed and it plainly showed the truth of the matter. The company didn't charge her but she did have to pay the ticket. The city where it happened was 80 miles away and she didn't want to take off from work to fight the ticket. So the Mustang Cell Phone Guy got away with his lie but it was her camera (all company vehcles have them) that saved a black mark from going on her work record. If you don't have a cell phone camera you can get a disposable or inexpensive digital camera to do the job but always have one. There are jerks everywhere and yes, they do drive!
      Stan
      • 1 Month Ago
      Fender Bender? Warning...sometimes a bad guy will hit you to get you out of your car where he can rob you or worse. Be careful! Have your cell phone and use it. Don't leave yourself open to any criminal act. Also remember this...don't be too persistent about calling the cops for a minor accident. There are illegals, escaped felons, criminals who don't want to let the cops know where they are and where they have been. If they can't run they might try to offer you money to forget the matter. When a guy offers you 500 bucks to look the other way don't be so persistent about calling the cops. If the guy or girl looks really nervous, angry or desperate take the money. Let them leave and then call the police. Tell them what happened and let them solve the situation. Get his license number if you can but don't push the matter to the point where they have to shut you up to keep the police out of it. They might pull a gun or a knife to do the job but more than likely they'll just crack a tire iron over you skull and put you back in your car to make it look like you died in the accident. SO BE CAREFUL AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING BEFORE YOU DO IT!
      • 1 Month Ago
      If you have a cell phone call 911, than ask if help is needed, if answer is yes than they requested your aid and cannot sue, give help, than use phone to take picts, if you want to be a wittness leave name and contact #, if you do not want to be involved, leave.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Just one question for this writer who like most journalists has to write something to keep his job but what he says doesn't amount to anything of value... Josh... how is it that you tell us emphatically NOT to touch anyone, but in the next paragraph you suggest we have our **** together when calling 9-1-1 and be able to tell the dispatcher whether or not any victim has a pulse? In Wyoming we don't have writers telling us how to handle life saving situations and we don't have movie star governors signing thousands more stupid laws into effect every other day. We use something thatg much of the nation seems to have lost or at least journalists who try to oexercise their "intelligence" upon us feeble commoners... It's called common sense. Yes, that's an unheard of new concept for many out in lala land, but belive it or not it works. Every accident situation is different... there are even some ******** out there who make their living by frivilous law suits and trap others into hitting them. Before you give any more instructions to us on how to handle life, please try to understand the idea that you should have first told your readers, ALL accidents are different and situations unknown for certain to an onlooker... Except for emminent threat of death my advice to any onlooker is similar to that of one other comment above... Mind your own damn business unless you have common sense.
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