If you get involved in a car crash, you may be inclined to apologize to the other driver, even if you were not at fault. Word to the wise, do not make an admission of fault for an auto accident. It might be used against you later. If you were involved in an Illinois auto accident, or injured anywhere in Illinois, contact our office at 847-305-4105 for a free and confidential consultation.
Why you should never admit fault for an auto accident
Whenever you “admit” something, it can be used against you. In this case, we are specifically speaking about an auto accident, but this could apply in slip and falls or any other type of personal injury.
When you admit fault, you are making an “admission.” Admissions are admissible as evidence against you. So, if you unintentionally or intentionally make an admission of fault for an auto accident, the other party will take that information and use it against you to establish liability for the accident.
Note that this is not a hard and fast rule. Not every apology is the same and often the same thing said by two different people can mean two very different things. Having said that, if you do admit fault or make some other apologetic statement or an admission, it could hurt your case.
Where does this commonly occur?
The most common place where a party makes an admission of fault is at the scene of the accident. Right after an accident, your adrenaline is rushing, you’re scared, you’re concerned about your safety, your passengers’ safety and even the safety of the person you were in the accident with.
As such, immediately after the accident you may say something totally innocuous like “I’m so sorry.” Believe it or not, this small statement can be the difference between you prevailing in your case or not.
You might also make an admission of fault to a police officer who comes to investigate the accident. The cop is going to make a finding of fault on the police report. The insurance company may base their decision regarding “liability,” or, who is at fault for the accident, based on the police report.
After you report the accident to your insurance company or file a claim with the other party’s insurance company, you will be asked to give a recorded statement. If it’s your insurance company, you probably have to give a statement. But I generally do not allow my clients to give recorded statements to the other party’s insurance company.
During the statement, the insurance adjuster is going to ask you statements to get you on the record so that they too can establish responsibility for the accident. Don’t make an admission of fault for an auto accident in Illinois or anywhere in the United States during a recorded statement either. At least, not if you want to recover for your damages.
The opportunity to accept responsibility for the accident may also arise during your deposition when you give testimony under oath in advance of trial. And it will arise again in the unlikely event your case goes to trial.
Another common place you may be tempted to admit something is at your doctor’s office. Doctor’s and patient communications are protected but if you attempt to get reimbursed for your injuries and medical bills, the doctor’s notes are fair game and will have to be turned over to the other side. If you admit fault for the auto accident to your doctor, she or he may document it in their records and this too can be used against you.
Different ways to make an admission of fault for an auto accident
An admission does not have to be saying “I’m sorry.” While that is the most common admission, it could be in many other forms as well. For example, you are involved in an accident and afterward while talking to the police you state:
- “I didn’t see him/her”
- “I was looking at my cell phone”
- “The sun was in my eyes”
These statements may be used against you and they may in and of themselves establish at least a portion of fault.
I had a client a few years ago who was involved in an auto accident and the other driver who rear ended him sent him text messages after the accident apologizing for what had occurred. She also admitted that she was looking at her phone when the accident occurred and that she had lied to the insurance company about what really happened. Case over.
What to do if the other party admits fault
So, admissions of fault cut both ways – if they can be used against you, they may also benefit you. What do you do if the other party makes an admission of fault after an auto accident? You document it.
If you are in Illinois, do not audio or videotape the admission as that could get you in trouble at least if the other party believes that your conversation is private. But, after the admission is made, document exactly what was said including where, when, how etc. You may be able to use this as evidence later.
Bottom line is, do not make an admission of fault for an auto accident in Illinois or anywhere else for that matter. If you are involved in an Illinois auto accident, contact the Chicago Legal Group for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.