The moments after a car accident often seem a blur. You might not really know what happened but soon find your vehicle off the road or even turned upside down. In moments like these, it is hard to keep a cool head.
Nevertheless, anything a motorist says in the minutes, hours, and days following a car accident could pop up later and undermine a legitimate claim. At Barney injury Law, we have seen people hamstring their cases by making comments that might seem innocent but turn out to be terrible mistakes.
Don’t Say, “I’m Sorry I Hit You”
This is probably the worst thing a motorist can say. Why? Well, for starters, Virginia still recognizes contributory negligence as a bar to receiving compensation following a wreck. According to our state’s Model Jury Instructions, contributory negligence is the failure to act as a reasonable person would have in the circumstances. In some states, a victim can sue so long as someone else was even 1% at fault. That is not the law in Virginia.
Instead, our state prohibits lawsuits if a motorist was even 1% to blame. Put differently, the other driver could be 99% at fault and you have lost the ability to bring a lawsuit if your negligence contributed at all to the wreck.
This sounds unfair—because it is. Nevertheless, it is the current law in our state. And saying, “I’m sorry” sounds like you are accepting some partial responsibility for the accident.
Instead of apologizing, you can show concern by saying, “Are you okay?” or “Would you like me to call an ambulance?” If the other person starts blaming you for the accident, just put your hands up and walk away.
Never Say, “I Couldn’t Even See You!”
This also sounds like you are admitting you were negligent for failing to pay attention. Distracted driving is a big problem on Virginia’s roads, and you don’t want to give the wrong impression that you were looking at your phone or daydreaming in the moments leading up to a wreck.
There is really no reason to rehash the events that led up to the accident with the other driver. Instead, call the police to come to the scene and wait in your car or take photographs to collect evidence. You can keep conversation to a minimum.
Saying, “I feel Fine” is Also a Mistake
Odds are, you might feel perfectly fine immediately following an accident, but there’s a simple reason: adrenaline is probably coursing through your body. Consequently, it numbs any pain that you feel. A day or two following the collision, however, you might begin feeling pain, stiffness, or swelling. These could be signs that you have suffered a significant injury with delayed symptoms.
If someone asks you how you feel, you can say, “I feel shaken up,” which is probably accurate. Again, there is no reason to get into a detailed discussion with the other driver.
In the weeks following the crash, the other driver’s insurance company might contact you to talk. You don’t have to speak with them. If you do, watch out for them saying things like, “You feel okay, right?” and trying to get you to agree. They are minimizing your injuries so they do not have to pay as much compensation.
Avoid Saying, “I’ll Handle My Claim on My Own”
Insurers love hearing that! They know that few people really understand how to properly value their injuries and are likely to settle for far less than they deserve. Instead, tell an insurer that you are hiring an attorney who will be in touch with them shortly.
Contact Barney Injury Law Today
We have negotiated tough settlements for our clients to recover money for lost income, medical care, and pain and suffering. You can schedule a free consultation by contacting us today. We serve Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Norfolk, VA.