If you ever experience a car accident, it is essential to avoid admitting fault in any way whatsoever, even if you know you bear at least partial liability for the accident. Even seemingly innocent phrases like “I’m sorry” could become major problems for a car accident victim. It would be very easy for the police responding to a crash or an insurance company to misconstrue such a phrase as an admission of fault.
Speaking to the Police
Every state requires drivers to report any car accident that results in injury, death, or significant property damage. If you have an accident with another driver and are unsure whether to report it, it is always best to err on the side of caution and report the crash to the police. If you only sustained minor injuries and feel well enough to move, try to take photos of the accident scene as quickly as possible, ideally before you need to move your vehicle out of the way of traffic. Once the police arrive, they will work quickly to assess the damage, take witness statements, and clear the road to restore traffic.
The police will want to speak with you and the other drivers involved in the accident. When you speak to the police, answer all of their questions honestly and as concisely as possible. Tell them what happened as plainly as you can and avoid saying anything the police could misconstrue as an admission of guilt. You should expect everything you say to appear in the police report for the accident.
Negotiating With Insurance Companies
Virtually any car accident will require an injured driver to file an insurance claim. A successful claim could potentially cover your losses, but filing a claim means the insurance company will want to investigate the matter to ensure your claim falls in line with the coverage term of the policy in question. Regardless of whether you file a claim against an at-fault driver’s insurance in a fault state or your own policy in a no-fault state, you should expect the insurer to investigate your claim.
The insurance claims adjuster assigned to investigate your claim will likely want to interview you about your claim. This interview may happen in person or over the phone, but regardless of how you talk to a claims adjuster, you should prepare for the negotiation tactics most insurers use to reduce their liability and convince unwitting claimants to admit fault, effectively reducing the claimant’s settlement.
A claims adjuster may ask the same question in different ways multiple times. This is essentially fishing for the claimant to change his or her story. When you answer a claims adjuster’s questions, answer them honestly and concisely as possible even if you feel like you have already answered the question. There is nothing stopping you from answering multiple similar but differently-worded questions the same way word-for-word.
- When speaking to a claimant, a claims adjuster will likely wait for several seconds before responding. This is a conversational tactic built around the fact that most people do not like awkward silences. After answering a question, the adjuster may not respond immediately. This is an attempt to get you to keep talking. The more you talk, the more likely you are to essentially poke holes in your own story.
- Avoid conversational topics with the adjuster. Even seemingly innocent conversation could potentially jeopardize your claim if you say anything in any context that the insurer could construe as an admission of fault.
One of the best ways to avoid unintentionally admitting fault to a claims adjuster is to hire an attorney to help you with your claim. Your attorney can file a demand letter for coverage on your behalf and most insurance companies are far less likely to push back against a claim when the claimant has legal representation. Your attorney can also help you answer a claims adjuster’s questions or correspond with the insurer on your behalf. Ultimately, yes, even saying something as simple as “I’m sorry” may jeopardize your ability to recover after a car accident, so speak with a car accident attorney as soon as possible to avoid absorbing liability for your claim.