Will What I Say to a Police Officer Be Used Against Me After a Car Accident?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Michael E. Trauscht with The Law Office Of Michael Trauscht.
After a car accident, it’s common for law enforcement to arrive at the scene and begin an investigation of the scene before writing up their report; however, it is not uncommon for an officer to receive just one side of the story, which might prevent a skewed version of how the accident occurred.
However, it’s important to remember that while a police report may affect your eligibility for an insurance claim, these reports are not typically considered admissible evidence in court. Instead, attorneys can use these reports as a starting point to conduct their own investigation into how and why the accident occurred. However, it’s a good idea to refrain from giving any official statements until a thorough investigation has been completed by a third-party. This means refraining from offering statements to police, the other driver, insurance providers, and even witnesses at the scene of the accident.
While a police report is not typically admissible evidence, what you say can come back to bite you.
It’s important to remember that anything you say after an accident can be used to establish your fault, even if it is inaccurate. Unscrupulous insurance companies are particularly known for twisting a policyholder’s words in order to reduce or deny an otherwise valid claim. Car accident attorneys typically recommend saying as little as possible after an accident; this includes talking to the other driver, witnesses, friends, and especially refraining from posting about the incident on social media.
In fact, it’s also recommended to avoid discussing details of the situation with your medical provider, although it is important to seek medical treatment even if the injuries are not particularly noticeable immediately following the accident.
Things are not always what they seem at the time of the accident.
In regard to both the police report and any statements made at the scene of the accident, it’s important to remember that apparent fault can be deceptive. It’s not uncommon for one party to believe they are at fault, only to later find that the other driver was distracted or committing another traffic violation at the time of the collision.
Depending on your state, you may still be eligible to receive compensation even if you were partially at fault for an accident, but it takes experienced accident reconstruction experts to determine with authority what was going on in both vehicles before and during the collision. This is another reason why it’s advisable to say as little as possible about the accident before you have consulted with a car accident attorney.
You do not have to answer a police officer’s questions without an attorney if you don’t want to.
While it is generally recommended to cooperate with law enforcement, if you feel uncomfortable answering a police officer’s questions or fear incriminating yourself, you are not legally obligated to answer their questions. If this is the case, it’s important to be polite but inform them that you would like to speak with an attorney before discussing the incident further.
However, many people want to talk to law enforcement about what happened; when this is the case, it’s a good idea to give the most basic information about the accident, without expressing any ideas about fault on either side and avoiding unnecessary conversation with law enforcement or anyone else at the scene.
To learn more about how police records affect car accident claims, or for help investigating an accident you were involved in, reach out to a car accident lawyer in your area.