California uses an at-fault insurance system. This means that the driver who caused a car accident has financial responsibility for the damages resulting from the accident.
Unfortunately, this creates an incentive for the other driver and their insurance company to twist your words to place responsibility for the accident on your shoulders.
Here are five statements to avoid making after a car accident.
Statements About the Accident
After a car accident, you might not be able to think straight. You may even suffer from emotional shock. You might have physical injuries and experience pain.
Despite all of this, insurers will pick through your post-accident statements to find the most damaging things you said so that they can deny or reduce your claims. Some of the most damaging statements you can make after an accident include:
It Was My Fault
When you say that the accident was your fault, you admit liability. The facts might show that you did not cause the accident. But by making this statement, you jeopardize the compensation you could recover. You may even cause all of the other drivers to seek compensation from you and your insurer.
The police tasked with responding to the accident scene can investigate the accident to determine causation without your admission. When you talk to the police, you should stick to the facts and refrain from giving your opinion, such as “It was my fault.”
Most people were taught as children to apologize when something goes wrong. If you see someone injured, your empathy might kick in and you might feel the urge to apologize. But drivers and insurers can twist this into an admission of liability.
Instead of apologizing, try to provide support and express empathy by helping them through their situation. Let them know that you understand that they are hurting and that you have called an ambulance. Ask if there is anything you can do to help. But avoid a vague statement like “I’m sorry.”
I Don’t Think We Need to Call the Police
Under California law, you are required to report a car accident that results in injury or death. If you fail to report the accident, California could suspend your driver’s license.
Suggesting that an accident should not be reported can be construed as an attempt to hide something. For example, an insurer might question whether you were intoxicated and tried to avoid a drug or alcohol test by not reporting the accident.
If an accident only causes property damage, you are not required to call the police. But failure to report an accident because you think no one was injured creates a different problem. An insurer will interpret the lack of a call to the police as an admission that you were not injured in the accident.
In either case, “I don’t think we need to call the police” is a very dangerous statement to make after a car accident.
Statements About Your Injuries
Insurance fraud happens. But it happens much less frequently than insurers believe. Insurance claims adjusters act like every injury was pre-existing, faked, or exaggerated.
As a result, anything you say that supports this view could jeopardize an injury claim. Some of the statements you should avoid making include:
I Feel Fine
When you have been in an accident, everyone will ask you how you feel, including the other drivers, police, EMTs, and insurers. If you put on a brave face and struggle through your pain, you will risk being accused of faking or exaggerating your injuries.
Instead of saying “I feel fine” after a car accident, be honest and consistent. If your shoulder hurts, say so. If you feel dizzy or nauseous, tell the EMTs. Even if you have medical experience, let the EMTs and doctors diagnose your injuries.
Remember that those seemingly minor injuries could be major problems. A sore back might be caused by a herniated disc. A sprained wrist might be a fracture.
Even if you feel fine immediately after the accident, some injuries take time to develop. Concussion symptoms might take days or even weeks to emerge.
Don’t Worry About It
Similar to “I feel fine” is “Don’t worry about it.” Being dismissive about your injuries after an accident might not have the same impact as “I feel fine.” But it can cause an insurer to question whether your injuries are exaggerated or may have existed before the accident.
For example, suppose that you limp after an accident and an EMT asks if you need help. If you say, “Don’t worry about it,” the insurer will say that your limp existed before the accident or that your limp was minor and you exaggerated your injuries for your insurance claim.
The Right Statements to Make After an Accident
If you made the wrong statements after an accident, you might need legal representation to fix the damage. You might also need a lawyer to advise you to make the right statements if you need to give a deposition or testify in court.
Contact the Lalezary Law Firm to schedule a free initial consultation with a friendly and experienced personal injury attorney so that you can discuss the statements you made after your injury. We Fight. You Win. They Pay.