In several countries around the world, the criminal code punishes people who see others at risk and do nothing to help them even though they can do so. Therefore, eyewitnesses have a moral responsibility to help the victims of an accident, but how should they do it? Can their actions affect the victim’s compensation?
WHAT SHOULD AN EYEWITNESS OF A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT DO?
An eyewitness has several responsibilities. One of them is to protect the people involved in the accident, without risking their own lives in the process.
For example, if a traffic accident occurs, the eyewitness is responsible for doing everything possible to save the lives of those involved. They could post signs to prevent other drivers from colliding with the victim on the road.
The eyewitness would not be responsible at all if helping the victim would involve putting their own life at risk. For example, if a car is on fire and has fuel all around it, the eyewitness does not have a legal obligation to reach out and help those affected because doing so would clearly put them at risk of serious burns.
HOW DO THE ACTIONS OF THE EYEWITNESS AFFECT THE VICTIM OF A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT?
An eyewitness can help the development of a case and the recovery of the victim by protecting them from other accidents. But they could also make the situation worse for injured people.
The eyewitness can notify the emergency authorities as soon as possible, by calling the fire department or the police. This would be beneficial to the health of the victim because they could receive immediate medical attention, and it is also convenient for their legal situation because evidence and testimonies from other witnesses can be collected more objectively.
For example, eyewitnesses can provide valuable information to health workers that care for the injured and can provide essential information about the accident that they can only know because they were present during the events.
There are certain things that an eyewitness should not do after a traffic accident. For instance, if a man who is an eyewitness goes beyond his duty to help and, in the process, he harms anyone involved, he could be partially liable for the damages incurred.
For example, a woman suffers a traffic accident in which she was not at fault and, because of that, she suffers a fracture in one of her ribs. The eyewitness was helping her, but in doing so they made those same fractured ribs generate internal bleeding.
The offending driver is responsible for the first injuries and is partially responsible for the second (because if the crash had not occurred there would have been no need to help the victim either). But the aggressor’s attorney could lessen their client’s liability based on the well-intentioned but misguided assistance of the eyewitness.
The defense attorney of the liable person could attribute all injuries to the actions of the eyewitness in order to detract from what their client did. Therefore, the injured woman would not receive what she deserves.
THE ACTIONS OF A WITNESS MAY ALTER COMPENSATION
Let’s suppose that the injuries caused in a traffic accident in Edmonton would take 15 days to heal, but because of the actions of one of the eyewitnesses, the recovery time increased to 30 days.
The witness’s actions altered the recovery time, turned a minor injury into a serious injury, and made them partly liable, making the legal process more difficult.
What is the lesson?
An eyewitness can affect the severity of the injuries and subsequently the victim’s compensation.
Note: In most cases the help of eyewitnesses is beneficial, the problem exists when the help required exceeds the knowledge of the eyewitness and causes additional damage.
CAN EYEWITNESSES BE CALLED TO DECLARE IN COURT FOR A CASE IN WHICH THEY WERE NOT PARTICIPATING?
The answer is yes. When an accident occurs, the authorities take the initial statements of the witnesses in which they explain, according to their perspective, what they saw in the accident. If an eyewitness says something that contradicts the formal investigation, they can be called to testify in front of a jury.
For example, if the eyewitness mentioned that the cars involved in an accident were moving in opposite directions and the report indicates that they were moving in the same direction, the eyewitness would be called to testify in court and would have the legal obligation to attend.
EYEWITNESSES ALSO NEED A LAWYER
Regardless of whether it is a victim, an aggressor, or an eyewitness, everyone involved needs a lawyer. Why? Because with the correct legal assistance:
● The best results will be achieved,
● The victim will be compensated and,
● The eyewitness will not be a potential victim of another aggressor in the future.