What to Do If You Witness a Car Accident in Missouri


what to do if you have witnessed a car accident in missouri

Seeing a car accident unfold in front of you while you’re driving to work or walking on a sidewalk is a shocking experience. While we all know that anyone involved in a car accident in Missouri must remain at the scene until cleared by law enforcement to leave, does the same law apply to witnesses? Many bystanders who witness car accidents in Missouri wonder what their rights and obligations are under Missouri law.

Do Witnesses Have to Remain at The Scene of an Accident in Missouri?

Missouri law does not compel eyewitnesses to a car accident to remain at the scene or leave their contact information; however, this is the right thing to do, especially if there are injured victims and you can provide critical eyewitness testimony about the cause of the accident and which driver was at fault.

Missouri is a fault-based insurance state. The state’s pure comparative negligence laws allow injury victims to recover damages like medical expenses, lost income, and compensation for pain and suffering as well as property damage from the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident or through a lawsuit. With comparative negligence laws, even a driver who was partly at fault for the accident may recover a portion of their damages minus their percentage of fault. For example, if damages amount to $100,000 but the injury victim was 20% at fault for their injuries because they were exceeding the speed limit, they can still recover $80,000. While this law is helpful to injury victims, it also often leaves the insurance company and an injury victim’s attorney disputing the amount of fault the victim had in the accident. An eyewitness to the accident could become the key deciding factor in disputed car accident claims.

Eyewitnesses who leave their contact information may be issued a subpoena in a lawsuit if they don’t voluntarily testify or agree to a deposition.

What Should An Eyewitness in a Missouri Car Accident Do?

As an eyewitness to an accident, you aren’t legally obligated to remain at the scene, but your testimony could be invaluable later. By choosing to remain at the scene of the accident, you can help victims recover both physically and financially by doing the following:

  • First, protect your own safety by pulling over to a safe location and turning on your hazard lights
  • Remain in a safe area and call 911 to report the accident
  • Offer any reasonable aid and comfort to injury victims while waiting for police and emergency services, but only if traffic flow is stopped and you aren’t placing yourself at risk of injury
  • Do not attempt medical procedures that are outside your capability
  • Once emergency services arrive, move away from the scene so you don’t impede their process, but remain available for law enforcement questioning
  • Give a statement to the police about what you witnessed and leave your name and contact information
  • At home, write or record a description of what you witnessed while the details are fresh in your mind in case you are asked to give a deposition or testimony in court

Never involve yourself in an argument at the scene of the accident if angry drivers become confrontational. Instead, remain calm and impartial and stick to the facts when describing what you witnessed to the police.

In the majority of cases, an eyewitness’s initial statement to the police is enough to resolve the injury victim’s claim. A recorded deposition (question and answer session with attorneys) or court testimony becomes necessary only if the case requires the eyewitness’s account to resolve a personal injury lawsuit.