Spinal injuries are quite serious, and can lead to lifelong debilitations including paralysis, permanent loss of function, and even death. Many spinal traumas, especially neck traumas, also leave accident victims prone to further injury if they are moved using improper techniques or aren’t adequately stabilized during treatment and recovery.

If you are faced with an unconscious accident victim and have any reason to believe that a spinal trauma has occurred, especially if the victim’s neck is at an odd angle, follow these tips to make sure you don’t cause further injury that could cost someone their life.

1. Don’t Move Them
If the spine has already been damaged, any movement could lead to more serious problems. Unless there is other immediate danger such as a fire, chemical spill, or falling debris, leave the accident victim in the position you found them in and contact emergency services right away.

2. Check for Breathing
If a victim goes too long without breathing, spinal injuries won’t matter. Without touching them, look for signs of breathing, or hold the palm of your hand (one of the most sensitive spots on the body) under their nose to feel for breath. If the victim isn’t breathing, lie them flat on their back using two or three people if possible to turn the head and body at the same time, keeping the neck as steady as possible. Then administer CPR.

3. Keep the Area Clear for Emergency Personnel
Unless you are a trained medical professional, the best help you can offer to an unconscious patient who is breathing is clearing the way for the professionals when they arrive. Make sure they have room around the victim to work, and create as much access as possible from the roadway to assist in quick treatment.