Car Accidents Mistakes to Avoid: Apologies

Auto accidents are unexpected events, and they can create a great deal of anxiety, chaos, and fear. While it may be difficult to remain calm and respond appropriately after being involved in a wreck, it is important to remember that what you do and say can affect any personal injury claim you file against the at-fault party. As we discussed in a previous blog post, this includes forgetting to gather information from involved parties, waiting to seek medical attention, and other missteps that can have a negative impact on your case and complicate the process of recovering the compensation you deserve – including apologies. But what’s could be so bad about apologizing?

For many people, apologizing or saying “sorry” is a polite and natural response to accidentally bumping into another person – even if it wasn’t your fault. In the context of a car accident, however, making an apology is a social nicety that has the potential to complicate your case for full and fair compensation – and it is something you should avoid for a number of reasons. Below, our Southern California car accident lawyers at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP explain why making an apology after any type of motor vehicle accident is not in your best interests.

  • Drivers may think you were at fault – Although apologies are a polite and natural reaction to conflict for many people, they can change the way an underlying situation or accident is interpreted. For example, if your first reaction is to say “sorry” to another driver involved in your crash, they may interpret your apology as an acceptance of fault, even if that is not truly the case. This can shape their understanding of the crash as one you caused, and can influence the way they discuss it with a law enforcement officer compiling a policy report, or any discussions they have with insurance companies.
  • You don’t have all the facts – One of the most important reasons to avoid saying “sorry” or discussing fault in any way, even if you think you might be at fault, is because you don’t have all the facts about what caused your accident. While you may think your actions caused or contributed to a wreck, you may later discover that the other driver was intoxicated at the time, or was texting while driving. Avoid apologizing even if you think you might have played a role, and instead work with a lawyer who can help you determine the underlying cause by investigating all circumstances involved after the fact.
  • The insurance company will use it against you – Insurance companies are powerful corporations that prioritize profits over people; especially people who have been harmed by their policyholders. When you say “sorry” at the scene of an accident, or even apologize when speaking with insurance adjusters who call you later on (remember, you don’t have to provide a recorded statement without speaking to an attorney first), the insurance company will be quick to use your statements against you. For example, they may use your apology to bolster their arguments that you caused or contributed to the wreck in some way, which may allow them to dispute your claim, pay you less than you deserve, or deny your claim entirely. Even if the facts show you are not at fault, any apology you make will provide the insurance company with ammunition to fight your claim and pay you as little as possible.

After an accident, your concerns should remain on your health and the safety of others involved – not who caused the accident. Instead of apologizing or discussing fault, focus on contacting emergency services, when needed, calling the police, and gathering as much information as possible (including contact info, insurance information, and photos of the scene and vehicle damage, etc.). You can then consult an attorney who can help you navigate the personal injury claim process and protect your right to a full and fair recovery of your damages.

If you wish to discuss a recent auto accident in Los Angeles or any of the surrounding communities of Southern California, our legal team at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP is available to help. Contact us today for a FREE and confidential review of your case.