What to Say or Not Say at the Scene of a North Carolina Car Accident
Immediately after an accident occurs, your emotions and adrenaline are pumping furiously. We are all guilty of saying things that we wish we would not have said when we are in a state of shock. Most people don’t realize that what they say at the scene of an accident could negatively impact their personal injury claim or recovery; therefore, it is important to remain as calm as possible and be cautious about what you say at the scene of the accident. Please review the following suggestions of what to say or not say at the scene of an accident.
Contributory Negligence – How Your Words May Hurt Your Claim
Although it may be evident that the other driver was at-fault in your accident, under North Carolina law, your actions or statements could drastically affect your ability to claim damages as well. Understanding what to say or not say at the scene of an accident is essential. North Carolina is one of only four states that operate under the law of contributory negligence.
Contributory negligence law provides that whenever a person is found to share any responsibility for his or her damages, they are barred from recovering compensation for their injuries caused by the at-fault driver. This means that even if you are found to be only 1% at fault, you cannot collect damages from the other party, despite the other party being 99% at fault. Therefore, even if you did not necessarily contribute to the accident, certain statements could bring rise to a contributory negligence defense by the at-fault party, causing the at-fault driver’s insurance adjuster to deny your claim.
In order to prevent a claims adjuster from denying your claim, you must be cautious not to inadvertently admit guilt or make a statement that could be used against you while at the scene of the accident. Simply apologizing or failing to clearly state the facts to the police officer can lead to such a denial from the insurance adjuster for contributory negligence.
With this being said, after an accident, you should attempt to limit your interaction with the other driver as much as possible and focus on locating witnesses and documenting the scene if you are physically able. Be sure not to admit fault or say, “I’m sorry,” as an apology often is considered an admission of guilt. Also, do not talk about the accident with the other driver, as you could accidentally state something that may hurt your claim.
For instance, even if the accident was clearly not your fault, you would not want to make a statement like, “I pressed the gas to try to avoid the accident.” While this statement may seem harmless, the claims adjuster will likely use the comment to justify denial of your claim, especially if your excess speed contributed to your damages.
Moreover, not only should you be careful in what you say to the other driver, you should also be cautious in what you say to the police officer arriving at the scene. The officer will be the one who writes the crash report and determines any “contributing circumstances” involved in the accident. Please visit the following link for more information about police reports and contributing circumstances. The police report is relied upon greatly by a claims adjuster in determining liability; therefore, you do not want to make comments that may cause you to be contributorily negligent. Thus, comments suggesting that you may not have been paying attention, or that you may have been speeding, should be avoided.
For example, perhaps you tell the police officer that you were changing your radio station just before the accident and therefore did not see the other driver hit you. Most of us change our radio station while driving our vehicle, as it is not against the law to do so. However, if the police officer reports that you were distracted at the time of the accident, the insurance company may say that you contributed to the accident and deny your claim.