Should you admit fault in an accident? Silva Injury Law encourages accident victims to speak with an attorney before admitting fault for a car accident. Most of the time, it is not wise to admit fault. However, even in rare circumstances where admitting fault in a car accident is appropriate, you should still discuss it with counsel first. In the vast majority of car accidents, no one admits fault, and that’s okay, too. We will help you investigate, prepare, and pursue your claim.
California Is an At-Fault Insurance State
There are two general car insurance systems in the United States: at-fault and no-fault systems. Which of these systems your state uses will determine how insurance processes auto accident claims.
Most states, including California, operate on an at-fault insurance system. In simple terms, this means the at-fault party can be directly sued for causing the accident. It also means you can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy rather than going through your own coverage.
Several states operate on a no-fault-based car insurance system (e.g., New Jersey and Florida). This means you must file a claim with your insurance policy coverage regardless of who is at fault for the crash.
Why Is This Important?
Knowing whether you live in an at-fault or no-fault state is essential when deciding whether to admit fault in an accident. Why? Because if you live in an at-fault state, your words and actions regarding fault can directly affect your financial liability.
What Not to Say
Whether you caused the accident or not, it can be second nature to utter the words “I’m sorry.” However, it is crucial to refrain from apologizing or making certain statements to the other driver, police, or insurance company.
Here are a few examples of what you should avoid saying:
- I’m sorry,
- It was my fault,
- I didn’t see you, and
- I didn’t realize.
Similarly, if the other driver admits fault, you should avoid telling them they did nothing wrong or uttering words that would absolve them of liability.
The list of words or phrases you should avoid after a car accident is potentially infinite, with many variations or ways of implying the same thing. Therefore, it is best to simply say as little as possible after an accident and keep your emotions from taking charge.
What Should You Do Instead?
Whether liability seems clear, uncertain, or contested, we do not advise admitting or implying fault at the scene. Instead, you should take the following constructive steps to strengthen your claim.
After any motor vehicle accident, if you are physically able, you should collect any evidence you can. This can include capturing photos of the vehicles, location, weather conditions, and injuries with your phone.
You can gather their names and contact information if eyewitnesses are at the scene. Their accounts of what happened could be vital later.
Cooperate with Police
You should calmly relay what happened to the responding police officer. Try to be as factual and accurate as possible without speculating or over-embellishing. The officer will document each party’s events to complete an accident report.
Once you leave the scene and seek necessary medical treatment, you should promptly engage a personal injury lawyer.
Avoid Social Media
Many people are quick to post daily occurrences on social media. However, we strongly encourage anyone recently involved in a car accident to avoid social media in the moments following a crash. You want to avoid commenting on or posting photos or videos of the accident scene, damage, or injuries. You should be mindful of what you post to your social media pages even days, weeks, and months after the accident. Defendants and insurance companies may use what they see on your social media accounts against you later to dispel liability and dispute damages.
For instance, if you assert the other driver was responsible because they rear-ended you but later post on social media that you “brake checked them” in a fit of road rage, your degree of fault will likely increase. Another example is if you are alleging severe back injury but then months later post a video of you snowboarding, the insurance company is going to argue you are not as injured as you claim. Overall, it is best to avoid social media altogether if you have a claim or lawsuit pending.
When Should You Admit Fault?
In some specific circumstances, recognizing, admitting, and accepting responsibility might be wise.
Clear Evidence Against You
When there is undeniable evidence that you are at fault for the accident—such as surveillance video or eyewitness accounts—acknowledging responsibility can accelerate the claims process. It can expedite a settlement and save you money by saving money for your car insurance company.
You Are Looking for an Expedited Settlement
There are some situations where admitting fault—even partial fault— can be beneficial to putting it all behind you quicker and with less stress. Recognizing your role in the accident can lead to an expedited settlement with the other driver’s insurance company. Instead of hashing it out in court, you may be able to reach a reasonable settlement faster if you admit your contribution to the crash.
Severe Injuries or Damage
If your actions obviously caused severe injuries or property damage, accepting fault might be in your best interest. If it is apparent that denial is not going to be a valid defense in court, acknowledging your role in the accident might be best to achieve a more favorable outcome.
While there are specific situations where admitting fault can be beneficial, we always recommend speaking with an attorney first to discuss your options.
Should I Admit Fault to My Insurance Company?
You might be wondering if you should admit fault to your own insurance company, and we generally give the same advice: speak with a lawyer first. Of course, you do not want to lie to your insurance company, and it is essential to remain truthful, but an experienced car accident attorney can guide you on what to say, what not to say, how much to say, and more.
California Auto Accident Attorneys
Now you might be thinking, What happens if you admit fault in a car accident before you speak with an attorney? Don’t panic. Our attorneys at Silva Injury Law have had many clients win their cases even after admitting wrongdoing. Contact us immediately at (209) 600-4389 to schedule a free consultation with our team!