Car Accidents - What to (and not to) Say after a Wreck
By Casey W. Stevens
Most of us will be in some sort of car accident in our lifetime. From minor fender benders to devastating crashes, car accidents are an unfortunate fact of life. So what are the rules about talking to police following an accident? Should you or shouldn’t you? Well, the truth is that it depends upon you and the circumstances of the wreck.
First of all, be aware that depending on the accident, there may be other investigators there besides police. For example, accidents involving 18-wheelers, require that the scene be investigated by a certified truck inspector, and trucking companies will most likely have their insurance agents and possibly even members of their legal team onsite. You should not speak to anyone representing other individuals involved in the accident, regardless of the circumstances surrounding your wreck. Be certain that you are talking to only law enforcement.
Some people find dealing with the police intimidating and unsettling, but don’t let the badges and uniforms rattle you. The most important thing to remember is to remain calm and rational. When speaking with members of law enforcement, always be respectful and polite. Accidents are stressful, but displacing your anger or frustrations with the situation onto the police will only cause problems in the future. So be as cooperative as possible without incriminating yourself.
The law requires only that you provide any responding law enforcement with your driver’s license and insurance information. Anything else that you say to the police should be weighed carefully. Remember that accident reports become public record – so be careful that you do not provide any information that you do not want made public that the responding officer may include in his or her report. They will most likely be taking statements from the other drivers and witnesses on scene, so remaining mute as they collect the facts could hurt you in the long run should you need to pursue legal action.
The police are there to determine what happened, who caused the accident, and to issue citations if necessary. If you know what happened, there is nothing wrong with providing that information to the police, but stick to the facts. Avoid using terms that may cast any blame upon you. Phrases such as, “I didn’t see the other car” or “I couldn’t stop in time” and others can seem to assign at least some of the blame to you because they point out what you did or didn’t do. They raise questions like “Why didn’t you see the other car?” and “Why couldn’t you stop in time?” And never use any phrase that seems apologetic – “I’m sorry” indicates that you have done something wrong even if you may only mean it empathetically.
As long as you are calm, polite, and truthful while sticking to the facts, talking to the police at your accident scene should not cause any problems. If the circumstances of your accident warrant legal representation, contact the Law Offices of Casey W. Stevens for a free consultation.