The question of fault is often the single biggest issue in an Ohio car accident claim. Before we get to the question of your damages and how much they’re worth, we have to determine who was at fault for the accident (that is, who is liable for the damages?).
“Whose fault was it?” might seem like a straightforward question; but it’s a lot more complex than that.
For that reason, it is critical that you never admit fault in a car accident, even if you think you were at fault.
Below, we explain why (and what to do if you already admitted fault in a car accident in Ohio).
The Difference Between Emotional Fault and Legal Fault
Part of being human means that we all sometimes blame ourselves for things that weren’t really our fault.
Right after a car crash, you might feel an overwhelming sense of, “This wasn’t supposed to happen.” And you’re right… the majority of car crashes happen because of negligent driving and could have been avoided. Car crashes shouldn’t happen. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it was your fault, or that the negligence was yours.
In the context of a car crash, the word “fault” is a complex legal term with centuries of court cases and thick law books behind it. It takes time to properly assess. It requires a sober review of the facts and application of the law. There is simply no way that anyone can reach a thorough and definitive determination of fault within the first twenty minutes of a car crash.
For that matter, not even the police officer’s finding of fault (if he or she makes one) is necessarily definitive. Official accident reports are important, but they don’t have the final say on the question of fault.
So please never decide for yourself that you were at fault in a car accident in Ohio. Instead, we invite you to reach out to our Columbus car accident lawyers and talk about the situation during a free, confidential consolation.
What You Need to Know About Polite Apologies
Politeness is a wonderful thing, but there is a way to be polite without compromising your legal interests.
Saying the wrong thing after a car accident can be construed as an admission of fault — or at the very least, an implication of fault.
Here are some examples of things not to say after a car accident in Ohio:
- I’m sorry.
- I should have been more careful.
- I wasn’t paying attention.
- I didn’t realize I was speeding.
- I didn’t get enough sleep last night.
- My bad.
- You didn’t do anything wrong.
- It wasn’t your fault.
- It was my fault.
It is entirely fine to express concern for other people after an accident. We encourage you to show kindness, comfort, and compassion at an accident scene whenever you can. Certainly, remain calm and civil. But choose your words carefully.
Don’t imply or admit fault. Don’t waive your rights or excuse the other person’s negligence. The less you say, the better.
Yes, Insurance Companies Will Use Your Words & Actions Against You
It might seem implausible to you that an insurance company would take your off-hand statements after an accident and use them to reduce or deny your compensation. But the truth is that insurance companies will do almost anything to reduce or deny your compensation. Many of them operate on an unofficial “Reduce or deny coverage first, investigate or negotiate later” policy. They’ll take any ammo you give them.
A simple “I should have been careful” may not completely obliterate your claim, but it certainly won’t help. It gives the other side something to hang its hat on, making negotiation more difficult and more time-consuming. And in some cases, such statements could indeed have a significant effect on your ability to recover.
Never underestimate other people’s ability to remember what you said, either. People who are involved in an accident sometimes hang on every word that the other person says.
People You Shouldn’t Admit Fault To
So far, we’ve focused on what happens if you admit fault in a car accident while talking to the other driver. It’s also important to avoid admitting fault to anyone else, including:
- Police officers
- Fire & Rescue officers, paramedics, or other emergency responders
- Insurance company representatives
- The other side’s lawyers
- Friends or family members
- Social media networks
One more note: there is a difference between not admitting fault and telling a lie. Never make a factual misrepresentation to law enforcement or to an insurance company regarding a claim. Doing so could have serious legal consequences.
It’s Not Too Late
What happens if you admit fault in a car accident? Is it too late?
No. If you made a mistake and said the wrong thing, don’t panic. Don’t assume you don’t have options or that your case is closed.
Instead, call our office and talk about your options with our Columbus auto accident lawyers.
Schedule a Cost-Free, No-Obligation Legal Consultation Today
At Colombo Law, we proudly serve auto accident victims all across the state of Ohio.
Contact Colombo Law and schedule a free case review with our Columbus auto accident lawyers today.
To get started, call 888-860-1414 (614-362-7000 in Columbus) or contact us online.