You should never admit fault at the scene of a car accident. If you do decide to assume fault, do so only after a rigorous investigation that irrefutably shows you are liable for the damages caused by the accident.
Many car accident victims make the mistake of admitting fault too early, only to have difficulty when they later realize that they were not at fault. Furthermore, you may assume that you were at fault when the legal definition of fault doesn’t apply to your situation.
Never Admit Fault at the Scene of a Car Accident
After a car accident, tensions may be high and your adrenaline may be pumping. You may not be thinking clearly, and you may be eager to take actions that you think will de-escalate the situation.
While there is nothing wrong with having sympathy for others involved in the car accident, never admit any wrongdoing to them and never admit fault. Some people say things like “I’m so sorry!” or similar statements of regret at the accident scene, which can be seen as an admission of guilt.
Request a police officer come to the scene of your accident and file a crash report. When the police arrive, provide a full, accurate statement.
Remember that you do not have to volunteer information that will incriminate yourself, but you should never make false or misleading statements. Simply offer the facts, to the best of your knowledge. Do not speculate, and do not be eager to confess possible traffic violations that may not be relevant to fault in your case.
These guidelines help you protect your rights to a fair investigation following your car accident.
How Is Fault Legally Determined?
There are only two ways that fault can be objectively determined:
- A jury verdict or bench verdict determines that you were at-fault following a rigorous hearing of all relevant facts.
- You or your insurance company decide to accept fault for the accident.
Contrary to popular belief, receiving a ticket or being named as a primary contributor to your accident in a police report does not automatically mean you were at fault.
Fault is a matter for the courts, and it can only be determined after an investigation and a fair hearing. Furthermore, committing an act like running a stop sign does not necessarily mean that you are at fault for an accident or that you were the direct cause of someone’s injuries.
Often, someone’s traffic violation is found to not have bearing on the accident, or it is determined to have played only a small role in the collision scenario.
To be found at-fault, the complaining party has to not only prove that you were negligent but also prove that your negligence was the direct cause of their injuries or claimed losses. It’s possible that they lack the evidence needed to make all the necessary provings.
If you admit fault too readily, you do this work for them, and you waive your right to a fair investigation of all the facts.
Comparative Fault Arrangements Can Mean You Are Still Able to Recover Compensation
Another reason not to readily admit fault is that you may be only partially at fault for the accident.
Most states have some form of comparative fault or contributory negligence rule that allows you to still recover compensation even if you were partially responsible for the circumstances of your accident. In Florida, the state operates under a pure comparative negligence law.
This means that an accident victim can still recover compensation from a liable party even if they are 99% responsible for the accident. However, their available recovery is limited to their portion of fault.
Therefore, someone who has $20,000 in damages from a severe injury and who was determined to be approximately 40% at fault can only recover up to $12,000 from other liable parties. Tennessee uses a modified comparative negligence system, which only bars recovery if the accident victim is 50% or more responsible for the collision.
Like Florida, the available compensation is reduced by the injury victim’s assigned percentage of fault. These systems make it critical to understand the answers to complex questions about who was to blame for your collision.
Working with an experienced Nashville car accident lawyer can help determine who should be assigned fault, what each party’s approximate percentage of liability is, and what the full costs of your accident damages are.
Talk to an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Near You
Steinger, Greene & Feiner is here to answer your legal questions and keep you informed of your rights. We want to help investigate your accident and determine who could be liable for your damages – even if you were partially responsible for your own accident.
Learn about your available options and legal rights during a free, no-obligation case review. Call us today at (800) 431-6841 or contact us online to schedule your free appointment with a car accident lawyer near you.