Being in a car accident can be a traumatic event. But the aftermath can be as bad, if not worse, as the parties involved in the accident point fingers and try to assign most or all of the blame somewhere else. As difficult as it can be to control emotions at the time of the accident, the best thing you can do is not say anything more than your name, contact information, and the information for your insurance company. You might want to say many other things, but unfortunately, those could be used against you during settlement negotiations or in court. Keep the following in mind if you’re in a car accident.
What Not to Say After a Car Accident and Why
It’s my fault. Even if you think you were the sole cause of the accident, it’s best not to admit it at the time of the accident. Frequently, investigations show evidence that more than one driver had at least some fault in the accident.
If your state rules under comparative negligence (more on that below):
I’m sorry. This can be a knee-jerk reaction even when someone hasn’t done anything wrong. But telling the other driver(s) you’re sorry could be used as proof of your liability.
I’m fine. Don’t say this even if you feel fine and don’t think you’re injured. Some injuries don’t present symptoms right away. You may feel fine at first, then hours or days later, realize something is wrong. But if you say you’re okay, the other driver’s attorney or insurance representative could use that against you in settlement negotiations or court. They could try to claim that you were fine after the accident but suffered another type of accident later that caused the injury, not the car accident.
In my opinion…Don’t offer opinions at the scene of the accident. When the police officer arrives to begin the police report, they’ll have many questions for you. If you have a fact-based answer, provide it; otherwise, say you don’t know. Otherwise, you could be painted as providing false information later on.
I don’t have a lawyer. Even if you don’t have a lawyer, the other parties don’t need to know that. The other driver’s attorney or insurance representative could see that as being to their advantage and pressure you to accept a lowball settlement.
In general, say as little as possible until you have legal representation. You’ll need to speak to anyone else involved in the accident to share names, contact information, and insurance information, but that’s all that should be shared with them.
Who Not to Talk to After a Car Accident
After a car accident, especially when you were injured and it appears to be largely the other driver’s fault, you may receive phone calls, emails, or letters from the other driver’s attorney or insurance representative. They will try to get you to say something that could be construed as accepting liability for the accident. They might also try to pressure you to accept a much lower settlement than you could feasibly receive. Don’t answer any questions, no matter how simple or innocent the questions sound, or sign any forms. Refer them to your lawyer.
As difficult as it may be, don’t discuss the accident with family or friends. Anything you say to them could be used against you during settlement negotiations or in court. It’s enough to say you were in a car accident and were injured. If they ask for specifics, tell them you can’t discuss that until legal matters are settled.
What Is the Difference Between Contributory and Comparative Negligence?
Personal injury laws vary across states. How liability is determined and damages settled has much to do with your state’s approach to negligence and liability.
Contributory negligence. Contributory negligence states use guidelines that say if someone is injured in a car accident but was also at least partly responsible for the accident, they’re not eligible for damages. For example, someone is hit by a driver who ran a stoplight. However, the person hit and injured was speeding. Because they contributed to their injury, they’re not eligible for damages.
Comparative negligence. In these cases, when more than one driver is at fault, the court will assess the percentage of fault for each driver. The person receiving damages will have the damages reduced in proportion to their share of liability. In the example above, the driver running the stoplight might be deemed 70% at fault, while the injured driver who was speeding is 30% at fault. If the damages were $10,000, the injured driver would only receive $7,000. Some states modify this by saying the injured person can only receive damages if they are only 50% or less liable for the accident.
In either case, saying things that could be interpreted as accepting blame could hurt your chances of receiving damages.
What Should I Do if I Was in a Car Accident?
You should call the police to get an official police report documenting what happened, as that will be important for any claims or lawsuits you eventually file. If there are any eyewitnesses present, get their names and contact information. If you can, note any businesses or homes nearby that might have security cameras that could have filmed the accident.
Then you should see a doctor, even if you feel fine. Alert the doctor’s office that you were in a car accident, as they’ll have specific injuries they’ll look for. Finally, call us 24/7 at 281-399-4308 to set up a free nationwide case review.