I seem to see fender-benders on my way to work on the Beltway on a weekly basis, but what should I do if I encounter a more serious Washington, D.C. car crash?

It usually causes us no guilt or even a second thought when we drive by a minor fender-bender. Typically, it is safer if you continue driving in order to keep the scene clear and allow traffic to pass freely.

If you witness a more serious accident in which people were hurt, however, the protocol is generally different. While you may feel like a helpless bystander, your presence may be of great assistance to both the victims and first responders.

The first thing to be make sure of while stopping is that you are completely clear of both the accident scene and traffic. Pull well off the road and turn on your flashers (or use a reflective triangle or flares) so that you are clearly visible. Leave plenty of room between your car and the wreck for emergency personnel to access any injured victims.

Assess the accident scene—making sure that it is safe to approach before doing so—and try to see if there are injured parties. It is absolutely critical to not move injured people. Call 911 and describe your location, the nature of the accident, and the injuries sustained. If there are victims who have removed themselves from the wreck, assist them as much as possible.

Take pictures of the scene, and be sure to give your contact information to the responding officers so that, should the case be investigated, your evidence and witness account can be used to help determine what happened.

Witnessing a serious D.C. car accident can be traumatic, but it is nothing compared to being the victim. If you have been injured in a wreck, call the Bethesda auto accident attorneys of Lewis & Tompkins today at 202.296.0666 for a free consultation and to find out how you can receive the compensation you deserve.

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