What to Do If You Witnessed a Hit-and-Run

Hit-and-run accidents are crimes that occur often in Northern California. Every year, hundreds of drivers cause car accidents and flee the scenes without fulfilling their legal obligations. Hit-and-run accidents can cost victims their lives or cause serious personal injuries or property damage. If you witness a hit-and-run in Sacramento, you could be in a position to help victims. Find out what to do by consulting with a Sacramento car accident attorney.

What a Witness Can Do to Help

Do your best to memorize the at-fault vehicle as it drives away. Note the license plate number, if possible, even if you can only get a partial. Immediately write down or record the plate numbers, color of the car, make and model, if you can. If you saw the driver or any passengers, describe them in detail as well. If you are able, take out your phone and record the vehicle as it drives away. Then, render aid to victims.

As one of the first people on the scene of a hit-and-run, you may be able to provide life-saving aid. If anyone has injuries, call 911 and request paramedics right away. Stay on the phone with the responder so he or she can walk you through what to do in an emergency. As a general rule, you should never move an injured person unless he or she is in danger of serious bodily injury. Only stay on the scene if it is safe for you to do so. Do not put your life at risk as a witness by trying to help in a dangerous situation.

Do not let the fear of someone suing you stop you from rendering aid to injured parties. California’s Good Samaritan Law protects those who provide emergency medical services in good faith from liability. Even if you accidentally make the hit-and-run victim’s injuries worse, the victim cannot hold you responsible if you were rendering aid in good faith at the scene of an emergency. If the victim is not in imminent danger, simply wait with him or her and try to keep the victim calm until paramedics arrive.

Do Witnesses Have to Appear in Court?

Once you have rendered aid to injured parties, the next way you can help as a witness is by telling your story. When the police arrive on the scene, give them your version of events. Give the police and all victims your name and contact information. Allow someone to record your statement if asked to do so. If you took any photographs or videos, send them to the victims and/or the police and keep them on your phone, as well.

Someone may call you in to testify as a witness in a hit-and-run accident case. The victim’s lawyer may contact you to request you come in for a deposition. A deposition is a series of questions by both attorneys of a case. You may turn down this request if you do not wish to give a deposition. The only time a lawyer can force you to give a statement or appear in court is with a subpoena. If a lawyer gets a subpoena or court order, you must answer the summons and go to court. The lawyer on either side of the case may call you as a witness.

If you do receive a subpoena, appear in court at the requested date and time. Prepare to spend hours or days in court. Your employer cannot terminate you for answering a subpoena. While on the stand, you will be under oath to tell the truth. The attorney that subpoenaed you will ask you questions on the stand, then the other side of the case will have the chance to cross-examine you. If you fail to appear in court after receiving a subpoena, the courts could hold you in contempt – something that could result in fines and even jail time. If you need advice as a hit-and-run accident witness, contact a car accident lawyer ahead of time for counsel.