Remember that in California there is no such thing as a no-fault accident. This is not a no-fault state. Because of that, it is very important that you are careful in choosing your words and actions following an accident.
First and foremost, never admit fault following an accident. The truth is that even if you initially think you are to blame, you might be wrong.
Many people are confused following an accident or simply don’t have all the facts. For example, you may have rear-ended someone and assume you are to blame. But later you might find out that their brake lights were broken, which likely puts them at fault.
It is common in our culture to offer an apology when we feel we have inconvenienced someone. We are quick to say, “I’m sorry.” It can be hard to resist this habit, but following a car accident, do not apologize to anyone for anything. Your apology for the inconvenience may be misconstrued as admitting fault.
You are not being dishonest by not admitting fault. You are following wise protocol. Trained professionals will examine all evidence gathered at the accident scene—statements from those involved, witness accounts, location of damage, etc.—and use that to paint a complete picture of what happened. They will then be able to determine which party is at fault.
Before you say anything to anyone, remember that your demeanor can say a lot. Remain calm regardless of who you think is at fault. Being rude or angry isn’t going to help anyone or anything. So, if you need a moment to collect yourself before exiting your vehicle, take that moment.
When approaching the other driver, simply ask them if they are okay. Obviously, if there is a serious injury, you should call 911. If everyone is okay, exchange names and contact information. There is no reason to carry the conversation any further. Both parties may wait separately for the police to arrive on the scene. You can make notes of what you remember about the accident and take pictures while you wait.
When the police arrive, tell them your account of what happened. Answer the questions they ask. If you don’t know or don’t remember, simply say that. Don’t speculate or guess about what happened. If you feel uncomfortable answering their questions, politely say that you prefer to speak to your attorney first.
One final consideration is social media. Many people practically livestream their lives on social media outlets these days. If you’re in an accident, don’t post about the accident, your injuries, or the other driver on social media.
A lawyer can help advise you on what to say and what not to say when you’ve been involved in an accident. Contact our office for a free consultation.