Why You Should Never Admit Fault in a Car Accident

May 1, 2024 | By Riddle & Brantley Accident Injury Lawyers
Why You Should Never Admit Fault in a Car Accident

Car accidents can be stressful, confusing, and sometimes life-changing events. However, after a car accident, you need to stay collected, especially when discussing who is at fault. Admitting fault at the scene of an accident, or even later in the process, can have far-reaching consequences that affect your ability to claim compensation for your losses. 

Contact us for a case review with an experienced car accident lawyer.

Here's why you need to exercise caution about what you say and do after an accident.

It Can Jeopardize Your Compensation Claim

Car accident

Even a minor accident can lead to significant expenses, from medical bills to car repairs. You might be entitled to compensation that can alleviate the financial burden. However, admitting fault can complicate your claim.

In some jurisdictions, admitting fault could entirely prevent you from receiving any compensation due to laws that limit recovery based on the degree of fault.

Changing Your Statement Can Be Difficult

Admissions of guilt, especially to law enforcement at the scene, can become part of an official report. Altering your account of the events after such an admission can be challenging. Insurance companies, when reviewing these reports, may take your initial admission as the definitive account, affecting your claim, increasing your premiums, or even leading to litigation against you.

The Risk of Being Confused or Misinformed

Accidents are disorienting. The stress and shock can impair your judgment, making you prone to misinterpret the events or mistakenly admit fault. Focus on the facts and avoid making speculative or emotional statements. Remember, the insurance company can use what you say against you in the assessment of the accident and the determination of fault.

Lack of Full Information

Immediately after an accident, you don't have all the facts. The cause might seem clear to you, but other factors could be at play, such as mechanical failures, the other driver's condition, or external conditions you may not have noticed. Without a comprehensive understanding of these elements, any admission of fault is premature.

Am I Required to Admit Fault at the Scene of an Accident?

You are not required to admit an accident was your fault — avoid admitting guilt before you speak with an attorney. 

Sometimes, people believe admitting fault will speed up the claims process so they can move on with their lives. However, the moment you admit fault in a car accident, you may open the door to significant consequences.

If you admit fault in a car accident, your insurance company may have to cover the costs of repairing or replacing the other driver’s vehicle, as well as any medical expenses or other losses they incurred. This could reduce your policy limits or increase your deductible, leaving you with less protection in the future.

Admitting fault in a car accident could also result in higher insurance premiums, as your insurer may consider you a higher-risk driver. Depending on the severity of the accident and your driving history, your rates could go up by as much as 41%. You may also lose any discounts or benefits you had before the accident, such as a good driver discount or accident forgiveness.

Admitting fault in a car accident could hurt your driving record, as you may receive points or citations for violating traffic laws or causing injuries. This could affect your eligibility for certain licenses, jobs, or programs that require a clean driving record. It could also lead to higher fines, fees, or penalties, such as suspension or revocation of your license.

Admitting fault in a car accident could prevent you from receiving the compensation you deserve for your own damages and injuries, especially if you live in an at-fault state.

Even if you are partially at fault, your compensation may decrease by your percentage of fault, leaving you with less money to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.

Choose Your Words Carefully After an Accident

Whether you’re addressing the other driver, the police, or the insurance company after an accident, choose your words carefully.

In fact, avoid these phrases:

  • “I didn’t see the other driver.” This phrase implies that you were not paying attention to the road or your surroundings, which could be considered negligence or recklessness. It also suggests that you failed to yield the right of way or follow traffic rules, which could make you liable for the collision. Saying this phrase could also weaken your claim if the other driver was partially or fully at fault, as it could be used as evidence against you.
  • “I’m sorry.” This phrase is often used as a polite gesture or an expression of sympathy, but it could also be interpreted as an admission of guilt or responsibility. Saying this phrase could imply that you feel remorseful or regretful for causing the accident, which could affect your credibility and your chances of getting fair compensation. Saying this phrase could also violate the terms of your insurance policy, which may require you to cooperate with your insurer but not admit fault.
  • “The accident was my fault.” This phrase is the most direct and clear way of admitting fault in a car accident, and it could have serious legal and financial consequences. Saying this phrase could make you liable for all the damages and injuries resulting from the accident, regardless of the actual circumstances or the other driver’s actions. Saying this phrase could also prevent you from recovering any compensation for your own losses, as it could bar you from filing a claim or a lawsuit. Saying this phrase could also expose you to potential lawsuits from the other driver or their insurer, who could seek to recover their losses from you.

What Should You Do Instead?

  • Stay Calm and Assess the Situation: Check for injuries and ensure everyone is safe. Call emergency services if needed.
  • Exchange Information: Swap contact and insurance information with the other driver without discussing the accident's specifics or fault.
  • Document the Scene: Take photos of the vehicles, any visible damages, the surrounding area, and anything else that might be relevant.
  • Speak Carefully: If you must talk about the accident, stick to the facts. Avoid making statements that could be interpreted as admissions of fault.
  • Seek Legal Advice: Before making any formal statements or accepting any settlements, consult with a car accident lawyer. A legal professional can guide you through the process, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you pursue the compensation you deserve.

Who Is Liable for a Car Accident?

Liability, or legal responsibility, for a car accident depends on who was at fault or who caused the accident by acting negligently or carelessly.

Fault can be determined through:

  • The police report of the accident, which may include the officer’s opinion, witness statements, and evidence from the scene
  • The state laws and traffic rules that apply to the accident, such as speed limits, right of way, and traffic signals
  • The insurance policies of the drivers involved in the accident, which may cover different types of damages and injuries depending on the coverage limits and deductibles

In some cases, such as when one driver runs a red light and hits another driver who has the green light, fault is clear and undisputed. Other cases may involve shared or unclear fault, such as when both drivers broke the speed limit. In these cases, the drivers, their insurers, and their lawyers may divide or dispute the liability for the accident.

If you are in a car accident, avoid admitting fault or apologizing to the other driver, as others will use this against you later on. Document the accident as much as possible by taking photos, exchanging information, and obtaining a copy of the police report. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident and file a claim.

However, you should also be aware that your insurance company may not have your best interests in mind and may try to minimize your compensation or deny your claim. Therefore, hire a car accident attorney who can help you prove fault, negotiate with the insurance company, and protect your rights and interests.

Damages Available When You Don’t Assume Fault

If you are involved in a car accident that was not your fault or only partially your fault, you may be entitled to recover several types of damages from the other driver or their insurance company. Damages are the monetary compensation you can receive for your losses and injuries caused by the accident.

Economic damages are the tangible and measurable losses you have suffered, such as:

  • Medical expenses, including past and future costs of treatment, medication, surgery, rehabilitation, and assistive devices
  • Lost income, including past and future wages, bonuses, tips, and benefits that you could not earn because of the accident
  • Property damage, including the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle and any other personal property damaged in the accident
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses, such as transportation, childcare, household services, and legal fees that you incurred because of the accident

Non-economic damages are the intangible and subjective losses you have experienced, such as:

  • Pain and suffering, including the physical and emotional distress, discomfort, and inconvenience caused by the accident and your injuries
  • Mental anguish, including the psychological effects of the accident, such as anxiety, depression, fear, anger, and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, including the reduced ability to participate in hobbies, activities, and social events that you enjoyed before the accident
  • Loss of consortium, including the diminished quality of your relationship with your spouse, partner, or children because of the accident and your injuries

The amount of damages you can recover depends on the severity and impact of the accident and your injuries, as well as the degree of fault of each party involved. In some states, you can recover damages even if you were partially at fault for the accident, as long as you were less than 50% or 51% at fault, depending on the state. However, your damages may decrease by your percentage of fault.

To recover damages, you will need to prove that the other driver was negligent, meaning that they failed to act with reasonable care and caused the accident. You will also need to prove that the accident caused your injuries and losses and that your damages are reasonable and supported by evidence. You may need to provide documents, such as medical records, bills, receipts, pay stubs, and repair estimates, as well as testimony from witnesses, experts, and yourself.

Contingency Fees in Car Accident Cases

If you have been injured or suffered property damage in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. However, pursuing a legal claim can be costly and time-consuming, especially if you have to go to court. That’s why many car accident victims choose to hire a lawyer who works on a contingency fee basis.

A contingency fee is a type of payment arrangement that allows you to hire a lawyer without paying any upfront fees or hourly rates. Instead, you agree to pay your lawyer a percentage of the money you recover from the at-fault party or their insurance company, either through a settlement or a judgment. If you don’t win anything, you don’t owe your lawyer anything.

The percentage that a lawyer charges as a contingency fee can vary depending on the complexity and risk of your case, the lawyer’s experience and reputation, and the local market.

Before you sign a contingency fee agreement with a lawyer, make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the contract.

Some questions you should ask your lawyer include:

  • What percentage will you charge as a contingency fee?
  • Will the percentage change depending on the stage or outcome of the case?
  • Will you deduct any costs or expenses from my recovery before or after calculating your fee?
  • What costs or expenses are you responsible for, and what costs or expenses am I responsible for?
  • Can I negotiate a lower contingency fee or a different payment method?
  • How will you communicate with me about the progress and status of my case?

Hiring a lawyer on a contingency fee basis can be a smart and convenient way to get legal representation and compensation for your car accident injuries and damages.

Contact us for a case review with an experienced car accident lawyer.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer

While it may feel instinctual to apologize or accept blame after a car accident, doing so can have serious legal and financial implications. Protecting your interests means being mindful of your statements and seeking qualified legal assistance after an accident.

Remember, it's not just about the immediate impact but ensuring your long-term well-being and financial security.

Contact us for a case review with an experienced car accident lawyer.

*Disclaimer: The results mentioned are intended to illustrate the type of cases handled by the firm. These results do not guarantee a similar outcome, and they should not be construed to promise or guarantee a particular result in any particular case. Every case is different, and the outcome of any case depends upon a variety of factors unique to that case.