I may have admitted fault at the scene of an accident.
August 30, 2013 2:52 PM   Subscribe

I got into an accident yesterday. It was my first accident so I really had no idea what to do. The other driver kept insisting it was my fault and I just kept apologizing (which is admitting fault?). How does this play in during the insurance claim?

After I had time to calm down and evaluate what happened, I am fairly certain it wasn't my fault. The tow truck driver was also quite insistent that it did not look like it was my fault.

It was a two way street. I was going to turn right but decided not to and put on my left light. I shoulder checked and I went for it but out of no where, this car hits my wheel. He was trying to overtake me and go around me so he was turning right slightly while I was moving left slightly. I don't know who's fault it is but I don't feel like it was all my fault.

However, I did apologize quite a bit and I generally agreed to everything he said because he was so angry and I just wanted to calm him down. He kept saying it was going to cost me a lot of money and I was so stressed about which meant I was even more shocked and disoriented. Does this mean I'm automatically at fault?

Moreover, he attempted to fix his own car with a crowbar to make it driveable (his fender bent a little when his bumper went in) and I forgot to mention this on the claim. I couldn't drive my car at all because the wheels turned in and steering was off so nothing was touched on my car. Is it important I mention this on the claim?

Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Did he record you? Because if he didn't, you said nothing and that's your story.
posted by jamaro at 3:00 PM on August 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't tell who is at fault here. Your apologies and agreements don't matter as much as what actually happened for now. Later if this is ever tried they may be "party admissions" that could be introduced into evidence, but I doubt this will get too far.

So, your job is to contact your insurance company with all the information you have, including any information on the other driver and his insurance information. They will investigate, and believe you me if they can find evidence he was at fault at all they will ding his insurance company for it. Do mention everything you remember including the drivability of his car to your adjustor. They'll likely take a taped statement from you.

Insurance will cover this but for the deductible. Your duty is just to cooperate fully with them.

I wouldn't talk to Angry Guy again. Let your insurance company adjustor handle that.
posted by bearwife at 3:00 PM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, I'd suggest you be very truthful with your adjustor. Almost every insurance policy requires this of you. If I were you, I'd steer clear of jamaro's advice and tell them what you said at the scene.
posted by bearwife at 3:02 PM on August 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Does this mean I'm automatically at fault?

No. The insurance will review the documentation of the accident and make their own decision about fault.
posted by JujuB at 3:02 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can mention to your insurance company that the other driver was angry and you were trying to defuse the situation.
posted by JujuB at 3:04 PM on August 30, 2013 [22 favorites]


For starters, your apologies don't automatically mean you're at fault. Beyond that, report what happened to your adjuster and answer the adjuster's questions truthfully. Keep in mind, though, that depending on your jurisdiction, your adjuster may be looking out for a reason to deny you coverage. Other states are "no-fault" jurisdictions where that's less likely to be the case.

Whether your apologies could ever get admitted into evidence at a trial, that depends a lot on your jurisdiction as well (for example, the odds are very much against the admission of your statements in California). The good news is that whether your statements would get admitted at trial is very much not something you need to worry about at this stage; odds are very slim it will ever become an issue.

BUT even if we want to imagine the statements are admitted at trial, it's still not the end of the world if you weren't actually at fault. Most jurors can remember some time in their past where they apologized even though what happened wasn't their fault -- you could likely make them see that was the case here.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:06 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the future, if you find yourself in this situation again, refuse to talk to anyone until you have collected yourself and your thoughts, and insist that the police be called before you say anything. I am sorry to say it, but you have screwed yourself over by being so concerned with making that man stop being upset. I think you need to prepare yourself for a fight -- and whatever you do, do NOT answer Angry Man's calls or emails or whatever avenue of communication he or his insurance uses. Let it go to VM. Save those VMs. You need to do some backtracking here even if the accident wasn't your fault because you may have been overheard by a witness who saw you capitulate and that may work against you later as claims get filed and blame is laid.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:06 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was a two way street. I was going to turn right but decided not to and put on my left light. I shoulder checked and I went for it but out of no where, this car hits my wheel. He was trying to overtake me and go around me so he was turning right slightly while I was moving left slightly. I don't know who's fault it is but I don't feel like it was all my fault.

Is this type of thing not basically always the overtaking persons fault? I was of the understanding from drivers ed and talking to several people(including my father, an experienced commercial driver of sorts) that when someone is overtaking or attempting to overtake then anything that happens is their fault unless someone else makes a blatantly illegal move that would have been a problem regardless.

On a two lane street no one should be going around anyone in this sort of situation unless there's a dedicated area where the parking along the sides stops for people making right turns to pull in to or something.

The other dude sounds like a typical saddlesore baby mad that their impulsive action didn't go perfectly their way. Every toddler is angry that they might get in trouble because the lamp broke when they were playing ball in the house, but that doesn't shift the blame magically off of them.

Call your insurance company and do not respond to any attempts to contact you from this guy, nor contact him in any way. Nobody should be talking to anyone but their insurance companies at this point.

Oh, and i'll also note that at least in my city the police will not show up unless someone is injured or it's a seriously destructive accident. Check on whether that's the case in your area, as you may not have even had that "call the police and wait til they arrive" option. Generally it's exchange insurance info and leave here, and that may be the case where you are as well. You are in no way obligated to sit and let someone yell at you in any situation ever, is how i live my life at least. Do the legal bare minimum and "this conversation is over" and leave.
posted by emptythought at 3:09 PM on August 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just make sure to have all the details possible. Write them down NOW if you haven't done so.

Exact location, exact time, direction of travel, speed, vehicle location in relation to curb, other person's vehicle (did they cross the center line before the accident?) time you had your right blinker on, when you turned your left blinker on, whether or not you were stopped, damage to your vehicle, damage to the other vehicle, any injuries, vehicle make, model, color, license plate, other driver information, other passengers, witnesses, contact information, who said what.

Whew! Write it down now, get your story straight and don't change it later.

IANAL and I don't know anything about this, but I seriously doubt apologizing is admitting fault.
posted by cnc at 3:15 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Several jurisdictions have an Apology Act; basically an admission of regret is not an admission of liability. Google [your jusridiction] and "Apology Act".
posted by saucysault at 3:15 PM on August 30, 2013


In my experience (California), when I was involved in an accident, one time I took the car to an ajduster who worked for the insurance company, the other time to a body shop that was authorized to inspect the damage and gave the information to the insurance company (I think it included both what needed to be fixed and also what the physical evidence was about what happened). I also
filled out an accident report. My insurance company called me and interviewed me over the phone (a taped interview) about what happened. They then went off and negotiated with the other insurance company. I never got any details about the results, just a check refunding the part of my deductible that I had had to pay. (In one case, I got 100% back (100% their fault, my car was legally parked), the other 75% (moving cars in the parking lot, I think it was their fault but the decision seems to be 75/25) If you or the other side object, then it no doubt gets more complicated but I think my experience is pretty typical.
So,
- I think physical evidence counts way more than what anyone says
- I would be sure to give the contact information for the tow truck driver to your insurance - he can comment on how the cars were placed when he got there etc. (his opinion of legal liability is irrelevant but the practical details might back up your version of the story.)
- I would tell the claims people that after the accident, "the other party was angry and belligerent, it made me really uncomfortable, I tried to get him to calm down but it didn't work." (if you actually agreed to him that it was your fault instead of just general "I'm so sorry" I might say "I would have said anything to get him to stop yelling at me. I don't know why he was so angry when it was his own fault but it was pretty scary."
posted by metahawk at 3:45 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Outside of a clear fault situation, when you're doing your taped interviews and statements - stick to the facts. The other person's insurance company may try to paint you into a corner of admitting fault, don't fall for it. When I was interviewed, the other person's company rep kept asking questions like, "well, if you HAD to assign blame to someone, would it be you?" over and over. I'd also mention that the other driver was not in control of his emotions and was quite angry. If you felt threatened, mention that as well.

Stick to the facts. Repeat the facts. Have your facts written down and don't get flustered.

What you say on the recording counts. Things said to someone other than a police officer at the scene is unlikely to make much of a difference.
posted by quince at 3:53 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seconding that you should have a clear and honest story ready. Stick to it. Don't use the phrase "out of nowhere", that's ridiculously close to admitting that you didn't watch out properly. He misread your intentions because you changed your mind mid-drive, which you perhaps shouldn't have done in the way you did, (or so it seems), and he also was too close to your car which he shouldn't have been. Obviously, there's a bit of shouldn't have on both your plates.
posted by Namlit at 3:58 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Adding to the pile of "just tell your insurance company what happened." Fault is complicated and probably shared by both of you, but it really doesn't matter THAT much unless someone gets sued for medical bills or something. Your insurance company will fix your car either way.

I had to answer though, because I didn't see anyone yet emphasize that you should report the road-side crowbar repair he did. He might take a photo after the fact and blame the additional damage on you. Plus, it might confuse an insurance adjuster who's trying to judge what happened independently by looking at the resulting damage (which they are normally pretty good at).
posted by ctmf at 9:36 AM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Exact location, exact time, direction of travel, speed, vehicle location in relation to curb, other person's vehicle (did they cross the center line before the accident?) time you had your right blinker on, when you turned your left blinker on, whether or not you were stopped, damage to your vehicle, damage to the other vehicle, any injuries, vehicle make, model, color, license plate, other driver information, other passengers, witnesses, contact information, who said what.

Whew! Write it down now, get your story straight and don't change it later.


This is excellent advice, and exactly what I came in to say.

It's surprising what you forget. You want your story very straight, especially when talking to the folks from insurance. If you end up in court, it's even more important to have your story straight.

Also: If you get a summons, lawyer lawyer lawyer. Just do it. And if you're ever in another accident, don't talk to anyone or say anything other than "Call 911," "Can I have your contact information and your insurance information?" or "I want to talk to my lawyer."

IANAL, but I uh, have a lot of experience in this area from when I was a teenager.
posted by topoisomerase at 4:34 PM on August 31, 2013


I did apologize quite a bit and I generally agreed to everything he said because he was so angry and I just wanted to calm him down...he attempted to fix his own car with a crowbar

You can state that the other driver appeared to be very angry, insisted it was your fault, had a crowbar, and that at the scene of the accident you apologized profusely because you felt that your safety might be at stake.

Don't say anything admitting to any fault with your insurance company.

Write out some notes for yourself about what happened NOW, you can expect to have one or more long conversations about what happened with people who will be recording everything you say and trying to get you to state things that might contradict what you initially said. They will ask repeatedly if you are sure, or could it have happened this other way -- that's their job.

I shoulder checked and I went for it

Find some way to put this without saying "I went for it".
posted by yohko at 8:34 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


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