What happens if you admit fault in a crash?

We've previously covered what to do after an accident, and you don't have to look far to find advice about what not to do. But what if you slip up, and say something you later regret?

Nearly everyone says you never admit fault after a car accident. Yet, among the crashing metal and breaking glass, your heart rate jumps and your mind goes into a tizzy. It's an impulsive moment and you're not often thinking logically. What happens if you admit, or imply, fault at the scene of the accident, even if it's not true?

Determining fault

There are many factors in proving fault in a crash. Your word is one of those factors but not the only one, so depending on the circumstances of your accident, what you said after the fact might not hold much weight -- or it could be the determining factor.

If the crash happened because of illegal driving by either yourself or another, the violation will determine fault regardless of a statement. Dent impacts and damage indicate proof of what happened and the police report and repair show will back that up. If you were rear-ended or spearheaded at a protected intersection, for example, the law will prove fault.

If the matter is less clear, your statement will likely be used as evidence against you. Determination of guilt is a complicated process but all evidence matters. The more evidence that is in your favor, the better.

Witness testimony and the police report can counter your original statement. If the police report details what happened, it provides objective evidence in your favor. Pedestrians, other motorists and tow truck drivers are also excellent sources to back you up.

Apologies are implicit

It's natural to be apologetic after the shock of an accident, but it's important to be mindful of your words. Saying "I'm sorry" isn't an admission of guilt but, read the wrong way, it can imply that you were at fault. While it's important to express genuine concern for others, remember that some other drivers are only looking out for themselves and will read an apology as an admission.

How does fault matter?

Your insurance provider will bill the at fault party, so yes. If you're at fault, it comes out of your premium. If a civil suit is filed, the at fault driver is responsible for damages -- not just damage to the vehicle, but for emotional pain and lost wages too.

Being at fault in a car accident can cost serious money that extends well beyond the day of the accident. You could end up paying for damages for months to come.

Although fault is often viewed of as a one-sided concept, it can be split between multiple drivers. It's possible that multiple drivers' erred during the accident. Courtrooms and insurance companies often come to that conclusion, assigning a percentage "fault formula," such as paying 90% to the overall damage.

It's never advised to speak about accident specifics or to admit fault after you've been in a collision. However, sometimes emotions overtake us and we speak before we think about the ramifications. If you've been in an accident and said something you'd like to take back, it's not too late but it is important to play the right cards as the process unfolds. Consulting with an attorney can help get the case on the right track.

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