Car accidents are upsetting for everyone involved. There may be injuries or damage to property, emotions may be running high, and it can be hard to think straight. However, what you say during a police report can be used against you. Here are some considerations for what to say if you speak with the police after an accident.
If there is any injury or property damage, call 911. They can dispatch emergency services and/or the police, as required. All states have a reporting requirement if injury or property damage reaches a certain threshold, and it's difficult to assess where you are in regards to that threshold immediately after an accident.
Make sure that you're assessed by emergency services on the scene or directly afterward if you have the slightest amount of pain or discomfort that wasn't there prior to the accident. Things that seem minor at the time can actually be quite serious, and it's better to be safe than sorry.
If police come to the scene, they will want to speak with you about what happened. When speaking to them, you want to be clear, stick to the facts, and don't speculate about what might have caused the accident.
You need to provide the officer at the scene with your name, driver's license, and registration. However, after that, you are not required to speak with officers. Do not be rude to anyone. You can protect your rights without rudeness.
If you do not remember what happened, you can tell officers that. You can also tell them what happened, but make sure you're only telling them information that you know, not information that you suspect. You probably don't know exactly what happened during the accident, so don't assume that you do. Provide just the facts.
At any point after providing your name, driver's license, and registration, you can refuse to answer any further questions. Tell the officer that you don't want to make any additional statements until you've spoken to your lawyer. The police might imply that you're making yourself look guilty by doing this, but the fact remains that you have the right not to answer any questions beyond the basics.
Absolutely do not say anything that makes it sound as if you caused the accident. Even if you believe you did, the investigation might show that the other driver was at fault, or that they were more at fault than you. However, even if this is the case, a police report with a statement from you admitting fault can keep you from being properly compensated for your losses.
Do not lie to officers. There's a big difference, in US law, between choosing to remain silent and lying. You have the right not to say anything, but if you lie, it dramatically weakens your case (and breaks the law).
Do not engage in small talk with anyone. Police are allowed to enter things into their reports that they overhear you saying, even if you're not speaking to them. Act as if you're on the record the entire time you're on the scene.
If you didn't file a police report on the scene, you may still be required to do so. Check your local laws. You can check out this article for more information.
If a police report is filed, you're entitled to see a copy, although you might have to pay for it. Ask the officer on the scene for an identification number or call the local law enforcement agency after the fact. Police reports should generally be available within ten days.
Review the police report for any errors or omissions, and make a note of any you find.
Contact a lawyer with experience in personal injury and car accidents.
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