Fault in a Car Accident – The Do’s and Don’ts
A car accident can put you in a state of shock. You may not know how to react or what to say.
What you say following a car accident is extremely important. Statements made at the scene (whether to other drivers, witnesses or police officers), insurance carriers, and others may have a profound effect on the outcome of your personal injury claim.
LA Century Law has seen thousands of accidents over the years. We have encountered almost every situation following an incident. Below we have summarized some of the “Dos and Do Nots” according to our attorneys.
Do’s and Don’ts of Admitting Fault in a Car Accident
DO – Wait to make statements
A car accident is a stressful event. It’s natural to want to resolve it quickly and make sense of it all. However, you’re in an elevated state right after the accident. In addition, you may have physical injuries that prevent you from thinking clearly.
Take a deep breath and a step back. You don’t have to make statements right away. Cooperate with law enforcement and provide the necessary personal information like your license and vehicle details. However, wait to give detailed information about what happened. You may be unknowingly admitting to fault, even if you’re not at fault.
DON’T – Say “Sorry!”
It’s natural to want to be polite after an accident. You may want to say, “It was my fault” or “Sorry!” in an effort to smooth things over and keep the peace. Don’t ever say you’re sorry after an accident. You can expect the other party and the insurance company to argue that you know you did something wrong if you say you’re sorry after an accident.
DO – Ask if people are okay
While you can’t say you’re sorry, one important thing that you should do is ask others if they’re okay. Secure medical attention for anyone who has any possibility of injury. Helping others is not an admission of fault. It’s important to help others arrange for prompt medical attention.
DON’T – Assume you know what legal fault is
Legal fault isn’t always clear. There are legal definitions of what fault is. When you’re in an accident, you don’t always have complete information to evaluate the situation. There may be extenuating circumstances that you’re not aware of. Fault may be shared among multiple parties. It may take an investigation and legal analysis to determine fault.
If you make statements too soon, you may be admitting to fault when you’re not at fault. It’s better to allow your lawyer to investigate and advise you as to how legal fault may be apportioned in the case.
DO – Report the accident to the insurance company
Even though you don’t want to make incriminating statements, it’s still important that you report the accident to the insurance company as soon as you can. For now, just tell them that you were in an accident and that there are damages. If you have physical injuries or a vehicle is damaged, you can provide that general information. Tell them that your lawyer will provide more information later.
DON’T – Give the insurance company a detailed statement right away
The insurance company may want you to make a detailed statement about the accident right away. They may even ask to record it. Don’t answer detailed questions or make admissions about your actions. Remember, the insurance company makes their profit from taking in more premiums than they pay in claims. When you have legal representation, your lawyer can provide the information necessary to process your claim.
DO – Work with a lawyer
When you have a lawyer, they are your representative. They can speak on your behalf while ensuring that you avoid making incriminating statements that may damage your case. A lawyer can evaluate the information that you are presenting and ensure that any statements you make are in your best interests.
DON’T – Assume you’re at fault because the police/insurance company says so
In the aftermath of the car accident, there may be others who make statements about fault. The police will prepare a crash report, and it might state a cause of the accident. The insurance company or even the other party may make accusations of fault. Remember, these people are not the ones who ultimately decide who is at fault. Your lawyer can help you investigate and determine how the law looks at fault for the case.
DO – Respond to interrogatories and other discovery requests
As the case moves forward to formal proceedings, you may participate in discovery. You may be asked to answer interrogatory questions or give a deposition. These are situations where you may need to answer questions under oath.
It’s important to comply with the requirements for discovery in the case. Your lawyer can prepare you for how to respond to tough or confusing questions. You can also send discovery requests. Your lawyer can help you use the discovery process effectively.
DON’T – Post on social media
Even what you say on social media can be seen as admitting fault in a car accident. The best thing to say about the car accident on social media is nothing at all. It’s common for parties and lawyers to scour social media looking for posts that may be taken as incriminating. Don’t give them the opportunity! Don’t talk about the accident on social media. It can be taken out of context and used against you.
If you admit fault in a car accident, is it admissible in court in California?
If you admit fault in a car accident, there is a good chance that your statements will be admissible against you. In the California Evidence Code, statements are not hearsay when they are offered against the declarant who is a party in the case. However, evidence that a person made a settlement offer is not admissible to show fault.
(Sources: California Evidence Code § 1220; § 1152)
Lawyers to Help with Fault in a Car Accident
The best way to protect your interests is to have a lawyer guiding you through the process. At LA Century Law, our lawyers ensure that you avoid admissions of fault, and we handle all of the interactions with the insurance company and the other party for you. When you work with us, your case is in good hands. Contact us today to see how we can help you with your car accident claim.