It's human nature to admit when you've made a mistake. When you're involved in an automobile accident, especially one where you may be responsible, it's tempting to apologize or even admit you were to blame for the wreck. In an attorney's eyes, however, doing those things could be the worst move you could possibly make.
There are plenty of good reasons why any attorney will tell you to never admit fault for an auto accident. The following offers an in-depth explanation of the possible downsides, along with some advice on what to do in the aftermath of an auto accident.
Admission of Fault Can Hurt Your Case
When an accident occurs, whether it's a minor fender-bender or a serious, life-threatening collision, it's up to the investigators -- including insurance adjusters and law enforcement officers -- to determine who's to blame for the accident. The investigators will thoroughly investigate every aspect of the accident, along with the circumstances leading up to the accident and any eyewitness testimony that can be gathered from bystanders and even nearby surveillance camera and dash cam footage.
Needless to say, the average investigator has their work cut out for them. Any verbal admission of fault, no matter how seemingly innocent or minor it is, makes their work much easier. Admitting fault will significantly increase your likelihood of being found mostly at fault for the accident. In states that adhere to the pure contributory negligence doctrine, being found at the slightest bit of fault for your auto accident can bar you from recovering any damages, even if the other party is found 99 percent at fault for the accident.
More importantly, your words can be used against you if the other party proceeds with a lawsuit for additional damages. Your own verbal testimony is a powerful tool that carries tremendous weight in legal proceedings. A verbal admission of fault can result in an easy win for the other party and possibly more financial hardship for you post-judgment.
You May Not Be at Fault After All
There are several sides to every story when it comes to automobile accidents. Although you may think you're at fault for the accident from your perspective, others may see that event differently. For instance, there may be other witnesses who can attest to the other driver's recklessness or negligence as being the true cause of the accident and clear proof of their fault.
Concussions and other medical symptoms in the aftermath of the accident can potentially make your initial testimony unreliable. Admitting fault at this stage means refuting your testimony later on, casting doubts on your reliability in court unless your testimony is backed by camera proof.
Automotive defects can lead to collisions that appear to be your fault, only to be vindicated upon closer inspection. As long as you're either unaware of the defect in question or took steps to address the defect, the part's manufacturer will likely be found at fault. Admitting fault can muddy these otherwise clear waters, making your claim more difficult to win.
How to Handle Auto Accidents
In summary, admitting fault for an auto accident means giving up substantial evidence that could be used against you later on, making your claim much tougher to prove. An admission of fault also leaves you open to further legal action by the other party. Here's what you should do instead to protect yourself and your insurance claim:
- Never admit fault. As mentioned before, verbally admitting fault can destroy your claim and expose you to further risk.
- Call your insurer ASAP. Your auto insurance provider should be one of the first post-accident contacts you make. Your provider will guide you through the claims process and take care of any disputes from the other party's insurance.
- Limit the small talk. The other party's insurance adjusters can gather a wealth of information, including anything that remotely sounds like an admission of fault, from just a little small talk. Ideally, you shouldn't talk to anyone but your doctor and the insurance company.
For more information, get in touch with an auto accident lawyer.