Does Saying “I’m Sorry” After a Car Accident Admit Fault?

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    When do we say we’re sorry? When we know we’ve done something wrong. Where a car accident is involved, saying “sorry” could be a costly mistake.

    In most states across America, including Pennsylvania, the seemingly harmless words “I’m sorry” might actually be admissible as evidence of liability following a crash. Not many people are aware of this fact, and to make matters worse, apologizing is often our first instinct when we are involved in an accident. Nonetheless, when it comes to the law, making an explicit apology after being involved in an auto accident – as well as most other accidents which cause personal injury – is normally interpreted as an admission of guilt in court proceedings and other legal matters. Obviously, that doesn’t bode well for the person who did the apologizing.

    If you were injured in a car accident, schedule a free review of your case with our car accident lawyers by calling The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940.

    How Saying the Wrong Thing Might Affect a Car Accident Insurance Claim

    Saying the wrong thing after a car accident might be more than a slip-up or faux pas. It might be used against you when you go to prove fault for the accident. Apologies are tricky. We often feel the need to apologize for the sake of social graces, not because we are actually sorry or even guilty of any wrongdoing. Insurance companies might disagree.

    Saying “I’m sorry” might be presented to prove you were at fault or believed you were at fault. The opposing party might argue that you would not have apologized if you did not believe you did anything wrong, and the insurance company might be inclined to believe them.

    The insurance company is ultimately the one who decides whether fault has been proven or not. Since they are also the ones paying for the damages, they are far from an unbiased decision-maker. While we can present evidence to the insurance company that shows the other driver was at fault even though you apologized for the accident, the insurance company might be unwilling to believe us.

    The insurance company might reduce your compensation or even deny your claim. If your apology costs you an insurance claim, speak to an attorney about suing the other driver. Your apology might be less likely to hold up as well in court.

    How to Minimize an Apology Made After a Car Accident

    If you did say something along the lines of “I’m sorry” after a car accident, there are ways that you and your lawyer can work to minimize the impact of that statement. First, we should analyze just what the apology was about.

    Did you apologize for the accident, or did you apologize for something else? Accidents are often very hectic scenes, and there might have been a lot happening when you made the statement. In some cases, people apologize without really thinking, making the statement sort of meaningless.

    What were the exact words you used? Did you explicitly apologize for causing the accident, or did you say sorry in a more general sense? People sometimes say the words “I’m sorry” not to apologize for any wrongdoing but to express concern. You might have been worried about the other person’s injuries when you made the statement, not because you believed you were at fault for the crash.

    Perhaps you did not apologize at all. Maybe you said something to show concern for the other person’s injuries, and they misconstrued or misremembered your statement as an apology. For example, perhaps you did not say, “I’m sorry,” but instead said, “Are you alright?”

    What did the other driver say to you? In many cases, people apologize without thinking because the other driver immediately starts accusing them of causing the accident. It is not until later that they realize the other driver is at fault.

    Even if you did apologize because you believed you caused the accident, that does not in fact mean you are guilty of any wrongdoing. Perhaps you exited your car believing you caused the crash, so you apologized. However, after looking around the crash scene, it becomes apparent that you are not at fault. We can help you present stronger evidence that shows you are not at fault despite making an apology.

    Can I File a Lawsuit for a Car Accident if I Said “I’m Sorry” to the Other Driver?

    Even if you apologized for the accident but realized that the other person should be held liable, you can still file a lawsuit. Many injured drivers choose to file insurance claims first, but many drivers are denied or offered insufficient compensation, sometimes because they said “I’m sorry” at the accident scene.

    There is often confusion about whether you can sue if your insurance claim was unsuccessful. After all, many insurance claims, depending on your state, require proof of fault. If you were denied, it means you could not prove fault. Even so, this does not preclude you from filing a lawsuit.

    Many others feel weird about filing a lawsuit after having apologized. You should not be made to feel guilty for suing for the compensation you are rightfully entitled to. The fact that you apologized does not mean you cannot sue, nor does it mean you will lose your case.

    Evidence of an Apology in a Lawsuit

    Evidence of your statement might not hold as much water in a lawsuit as in an insurance claim. The other driver might try to enter your apology into evidence as an excited utterance. Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, an excited utterance is one of many exceptions to the rule against hearsay. An excited utterance is a statement about a sudden or startling event or incident made by someone still under the stress of the incident.

    The reasoning behind an excited utterance is that such statements are often made quickly and in reaction to something surprising or distressing. The thinking is that the declarant does not have the time to consider making a false statement.

    If your apology is used against you as an excited utterance, there are a few ways our car accident lawyer can help you combat it. One important element of an excited utterance is that it must be made close in time to the incident or event it concerns. If you did not apologize until later, we can rebut the excited utterance. We should use this information to file a pretrial motion and stop the other party from entering your apology as an excited utterance before the trial even begins.

    If the apology somehow makes it into court, we can work to convince the jury to disregard it. Apologizing after a car accident happens a lot, as people often want to make sure the other person is okay, even if they were the one who caused the crash. For others, saying “I’m sorry” is like a bad habit. People might apologize for everything and anything, even when everyone knows they are blameless.

    What to Do if You’re Involved in a Personal Injury Accident

    Although many try to be courteous and sincere following an accident, from a legal standpoint, it is far more advantageous to avoid making any potentially incriminating statements at the scene. Instead of apologizing when an accident has occurred, you should always do these two things:

    1. Immediately after the accident, you should obtain the names of all of the individuals involved, as well as obtain the contact information of any witnesses who may have been present.
    2. After exchanging and obtaining the relevant information, you should immediately contact an experienced West Chester car accident lawyer or your insurance company for advice about what to do next. You should also remain at the scene and refuse any payments the other driver may offer to make to you on the spot. In the long term, you should also avoid taking your car to a shop for repairs before talking it over with your insurer. A car accident attorney or your insurance agent will be able to advise you about post-accident “dos and don’ts.”

    Alternately, there are also things that you should take care not to do (such as apologizing). For example, you should never sign any documents at the scene other than official documents requested by the police or law enforcement authorities. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident, you should offer no written or oral statements admitting fault – and that includes apologies.

    As tempting as it may be due to personal feelings and social expectations, an apology could come back to haunt you in court as a formal admission of guilt. Your legal and financial prognosis is likely much better if you simply stick to the straight facts instead.

    The Personal Injury Attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm Have the Experience

    For an in-depth, free, and private case review with our Pennsylvania car accident attorneys, call The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 774-6020.

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