Is It a Mistake to Admit Fault After a Car Accident?
Admitting fault after a car accident can work against your injury claim, but a good injury lawyer can help you to overcome this mistake.
Georgia uses an at-fault insurance system. Fault is used to determine whose insurer pays for damages. If you admit fault, you could jeopardize your injury claim. You also increase the odds that your insurer will need to pay injury claims for the other people involved in the accident.
But your admission would just be another piece of evidence. A good injury lawyer could still assemble a case that places liability squarely on the driver who is truly at fault for the accident.
Let’s explore admissions of fault and how claim adjusters handle them.
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What to Do After an Accident
Immediately after an accident, you will probably experience some shock, anger, and stress. This is the wrong time to assess fault. Instead, you should focus on the immediate safety and health of everyone at the scene and gather the information you might need later on.
Instead, here are the steps that you should take at the scene.
Secure the Scene
If you can safely move the vehicles, you should do so. Make sure that the cars do not block traffic. Set up flares, flashers, or flags to warn oncoming vehicles of the accident.
If you require emergency care, call for EMTs or ask someone to call for EMTs. If anyone else needs emergency care, try to provide first aid until EMTs arrive.
Report the Accident
Georgia law requires drivers to report all accidents that involve injuries, death, or property damage exceeding $500. Failing to report an accident can result in a fine and points added to your driving history.
Report your accident to the local police department, county sheriff’s office, or Georgia State Patrol.
Cooperate with Law Enforcement
Law enforcement has the job of investigating the accident. Police officers do not need your admission of fault to investigate the accident. They just need your cooperation in telling them what happened.
Once they collect the facts, the responding officers will produce an accident report that will assess fault to a driver for causing the accident. Admitting fault to the police will not change their assessment of what happened. It will only create a negative record for you and your injury claim.
Under Georgia law, the responding officers will instruct each driver to exchange information.
The information will include:
- Name and address
- License plate number
- Name of the driver’s auto insurer
You may also want to gather the names of witnesses to the accident and photos of the accident scene. This will help your injury lawyer determine how you can best pursue an injury claim.
Admitting Fault After an Accident
Cooperating with the accident investigation does not mean that you need to admit fault. Instead of admitting fault, stick to the facts. Explain what you did and what you saw the other drivers do.
Be truthful, even if the truth harms your case. Lying to the police can result in criminal charges. Lying can also destroy your credibility with insurance companies, juries, and judges.
Determining Fault for an Accident
While you may feel guilty after an accident, particularly if people are injured, admitting fault will probably not influence the police investigation. Rather, your admission may delay, reduce, or deny your insurance claim. Thus, an admission of fault has many drawbacks and no benefits.
The police will determine whether anyone violated Georgia’s Uniform Rules of the Road. These laws set out all the traffic safety rules for operating a motor vehicle on Georgia’s roads.
If a driver violates the Uniform Rules of the Road, that driver is presumed to have acted negligently under a doctrine called negligence per se. The driver can rebut this presumption by showing that the violation was not due to negligence.
For example, if a driver swerved to miss a deer and hit a car, that driver might have caused the accident, but not through negligence. As a result, that driver might not be “at fault” for purposes of paying injury claims.
On the other hand, if the driver swerved into your lane because they did not see your vehicle, the driver was probably negligent and will be liable for any damages caused resulting from the lane change accident.
What If I Already Admitted Fault?
If you had an accident and admitted fault, the insurers will use that admission against you for the other drivers. But an injury attorney can limit the damage from your admission.
An insurer can use your admission to deny or reduce an insurance claim. For example, an insurer might shift fault for the accident to you. The claims adjuster might use this as a negotiating tactic.
The admission might not overcome the evidence that its customer caused the accident. But it can call your version of the accident into question and allow the claims adjuster to reduce your claim.
Why is this the case? Georgia uses comparative negligence to allocate fault and measure damages. When someone bears some fault for an accident, their damages are reduced proportionally.
For example, if you bear 15% of the fault for an accident, you can only receive 85% of your damages. By admitting fault at the scene of the accident, you give the claims adjuster an opening to allocate some fault to you and reduce your damage claim.
An experienced injury lawyer can often negotiate with the claims adjuster and get past the admission of fault. Without facts to back up the admission, the lawyer can point out that your words mean nothing.
Avoiding the Problem
The best way to circumvent the consequences of admitting fault is to avoid making the admission in the first place. “I did not see the car coming” is different from “I caused the accident because I did not see the car coming.” Sticking to the facts, including those that might not cast you in the best light, will help you avoid damaging admissions.