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How Statements Made At The Accident Scene Affect Personal Injury Cases



The statement popularized in criminal defense dramas like "Law and Order" is, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you." While this statement is traditionally part of the Miranda rights given to an individual being arrested, it is unfortunately true even if you were just at the scene of an automobile accident. If an accident occurs and an individual chooses to sue, any statements made at the scene such as, "oh, my bad" or "so and so should have done something differently" may affect the result of the case.

Common Situations Where This Is An Issue

Accident scene statements made in a variety of personal injury cases have often been the lynchpins of said cases. These include:

  • Auto accidents
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Workers' compensation cases
  • Chemical spills
  • Construction accidents

Things To Consider

Emotions often run high at the scene of a personal injury. Generally speaking, nobody wanted the accident to happen, and they want to do or say anything they can say to even remotely ease the pain. Often the urge to "apologize" is strong, even if you didn't cause it. Try not to speak too much, especially if you are the victim. The opposing lawyer will do everything she can to tie those actions to fault. Even statements like, "I wasn't paying attention" should be kept to yourself.

What To Say

If an accident happens, try to keep a cool head while in public. Plan your cathartic release for later. Call the police as soon as possible and get assistance from a doctor. Then consider hiring a personal injury lawyer. Do not sign anything without a lawyer present to read the statement or release. Do not answer any questions unless a police officer asks them, and then only provide the objectively observable truth. This includes statements like, "I was driving down Main Street and the car hit my right side tail light," but does not include statements like, "I was in a bad mood and flustered, and I didn't see him."

Use your best judgment at all times. If you aren't sure you have good judgment after being in an accident, just condition yourself not to say anything at all. In public, with the possibility for litigation and words being used against you, silence is golden.