What to Do if You are in a Car Accident
The law is about stories — the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s. Credibility — who is more believable — is everything. Any Panama City injury lawyer, whether a plaintiff’s attorney or a defense attorney, has dozens of stories where a case completely fell apart because someone — the injured person, or the defendant, or even a third-party witness — was simply not credible.
In the moments following a car accident, panic and confusion can overwhelm even the most levelheaded person among us. The sudden spike in adrenaline can make your heart race and head pulse. What happens next, however, can be crucial in determining whether a jury believes you.
No one gets in trouble for the thing they don’t say. Once you have determined that everyone is okay and called 911, try not to speak to the other driver. Remember that if this accident results in legal action, the other driver will be your opponent in court. This means that everything you say can be used against you — including things that seem perfectly harmless and polite.
Perhaps you have heard of people saying, “I’m sorry,” only to have that be offered as an admission of liability in court. People don’t apologize unless they’ve done something wrong, goes the argument. “I’m sorry,” two simple words that we have all been told to offer freely since childhood, suddenly gets twisted into something much more than it was intended to be.
The same principle applies to other, seemingly minor and harmless statements. Imagine that your car collides with another car driven by someone who is completely at fault — that driver is speeding, texting, had a few drinks in him, or maybe some other dangerously reckless stuff. After the collision the victim angrily shouts, “I didn’t see you coming!”
At trial, a good Panama City defense attorney can twist that into an admission that you weren’t paying attention to the road, even though it was clear on the day of the accident that wasn’t the intended meaning. That twist can undermine the victim’s credibility, and that can result in limiting the amount recovered. As awkward as it may seem, you should not say anything to the other driver or his/her passengers.
Once the police arrive, tell them what happened in as much detail as you can. The other driver will tell his side of the story, and the police will file their report. Be clear and thorough with the police, but…
If you don’t know something for sure, don’t guess! People guesstimate times and speeds regularly, only to have expert witnesses testify forcefully that those guesstimates are not only wrong, but horribly, completely wrong. The party who made the guesstimate is not as believable now.
Credibility in a legal proceeding is the most important currency anyone has. The best way to protect it is not saying things that can later be twisted.
If you have been in an accident and would like more advice before you speak with a doctor, adjuster or other concerned party in your case, feel free to give our Panama City injury attorneys a call at no charge at (850) 795-4979.