Does Apologizing to the Other Driver After an Accident Admit Fault in FL?
After a car accident, it is important to protect your case and protect yourself from liability. Florida’s Rules of Civil Procedure require you to turn over certain evidence to the other side during an injury lawsuit, and the Evidence Code allows them to use your own statements against you. This means it is important not to say too much after a car crash. But does that mean you can’t say sorry? If you let an apology slip, can the other driver use that as evidence that you admitted the accident was your fault? Miami car accident lawyer Prosper Shaked breaks down Florida’s apology law and what not to say after a car crash.
Does Saying Sorry Admit Fault for a Florida Car Accident?
Under Florida law, most statements made outside the courtroom are not admissible as evidence at trial. Using statements made outside the courtroom as proof that the information in the statement is true is called “hearsay,” and Florida’s Evidence Code bars most hearsay from coming in as evidence. However, any statements that the opposing side makes can be used against them in court.
This means that if the other driver gets out of their car and says “Oh my God, this accident was my fault and I accept full responsibility,” your attorney can use that statement as evidence to help you prove your case. Most cases are not so simple, and most drivers have some understanding that they should not admit to anything where fault is concerned, especially when car insurance or lawyers might get involved.
However, apologizing might be instinctual for many people, even if they didn’t do anything wrong. Many people automatically say “sorry” or “excuse me,” even if someone else bumps into them on the sidewalk or spills a drink on them in a bar. It’s human nature to try to de-escalate a situation with an apology – but should it count as a binding declaration of guilt?
Florida answered this question by passing an “apology statute.” Florida Statute § 90.4026 deals with “Statements expressing sympathy” and their admissibility as evidence. Essentially, the rule says that “benevolent gestures expressing sympathy or a general sense of benevolence” regarding “pain, suffering, or death” are not available as evidence in court. Usually, anything a driver says after a car crash could be used as evidence in court, but sympathy, condolences, etc. are barred as evidence.
However, many statements may have a combination of sympathy and admissions of fault. Those statements can be broken up so that the apology is inadmissible as evidence, but the admission of fault can be used as evidence. That means that if a driver says something like, “I feel bad, that was my fault”:
- “I feel bad,” is not admissible as evidence, but
- “… that was my fault,” would still be admissible as evidence.
Determining what counts as an inadmissible apology is up to the court. For instance, someone might say, “My bad” as a relatively common form of apology. A court may still consider that an admission of guilt, since it can be literally read that way – but an at-fault driver will usually try to argue that it was an apology and should not be used as evidence.
What Not to Say After a Car Accident
If you are suing for car accident injuries, it is important not to give the other driver ammunition to use against you. Florida’s car accident laws allow you to recover damages for a car crash, even if you were partly at-fault. The court will decide how much responsibility you shared for the crash and reduce your damages by that same percentage. If you suffered very serious injuries like spinal cord injuries or a brain injury, you may not be able to afford having damages reduced, and it is vital to protect your claim.
This means you should not discuss your case with anyone, especially the other driver. Any statements you make about fault can usually come in as evidence in court. That means posting to social media or even telling friends about your case can come back to hurt you at trial. However, you can usually discuss your case with your spouse and your lawyer, since those communications are privileged and protected.
While you may be able to apologize, it is important not to admit fault. Even statements about what happened could be used as admissions of fault or could be used later to challenge inconsistent stories. You may feel the need to explain the whole case to the police officer at the scene, but it is better to wait until you have an attorney present before discussing your case in detail. Instead, only give the officers and first responders the basic information needed for a report and avoid making additional statements. For more detailed advice on what you can and can’t say after a car crash, consult with an attorney.
Miami Car Accident Lawyer Offering Free Consultations
Miami personal injury lawyer Prosper Shaked represents the victims of car crashes and their families to help them get the compensation they need. If you were injured in a car crash in Hollywood, Coral Gables, Doral, or anywhere in South Florida, talk to our attorney about your case today. For a free consultation, contact The Law Offices of Prosper Shaked today at (305) 690-0244.