In today's world, open communication is key. We share our thoughts and experiences freely with friends, family, and even sometimes strangers online. It feels natural to want to express ourselves openly and honestly. However, have you ever stopped to consider that even harmless-sounding statements can come back to bite us? Premier New York law firm Duffy & Duffy, PLLC, with over 20 of experience, emphasizes the importance of watching what you say, as even seemingly innocent statements can have serious legal implications.

This might seem surprising. After all, shouldn't we be able to speak our minds freely? The truth is that words can be powerful tools, and depending on the context, they can be misconstrued or taken out of context. This can be especially true in legal situations. 

Imagine being involved in a car accident. You might say something to the other driver, like, "I'm so sorry; it was my fault." This may seem like a simple apology, but if you talk to a car accident lawyer, they will tell you that this statement can be used against you in court as an admission of guilt. This is just one example of how statements can be used against us, even if we don't mean them negatively.

Read on to learn more about how statements can backfire and what you can do to protect yourself.


The Power of Statements in Personal Injury Law

In the heat of the moment after an accident, you might say things you don't even realize could come back to haunt you.

These seemingly harmless statements can be used as evidence by the opposing party – the insurance company or the person you're holding responsible for your injuries (and their lawyer). Their goal? To minimize the severity of your injuries or even shift the blame to you.

Here's how:


-Spoken Words: Anything you say to the other driver, witnesses, bystanders, or even an insurance adjuster can be used against you. This includes downplaying your injuries ("I'm fine, really") or taking some of the blame ("Maybe I was going a bit too fast").

-Written Evidence:  Social media posts about feeling "great" after the accident or even filling out an accident report with unclear details can be misconstrued.

The tricky part? Even unintentional statements can be twisted into "admissions" of fault or a lack of injury. Remember, the other side is looking for any reason to weaken your case. So, it's crucial to be mindful of what you say, both in person and online.


Common Misconceptions about Statements

Here's the catch: honesty doesn't mean blurting out every detail after an accident. While being truthful is important, some things are best left unsaid. Even well-meaning statements can be used against you.

For example, saying "I'm okay" at the scene might seem honest, but it could downplay the seriousness of your injuries later. Similarly, mentioning you were "distracted for a second" before the accident could be seen as admitting partial fault.

This is especially important in states with comparative negligence laws. These laws assign a percentage of fault to each party involved in an accident. If you're found partially at fault, your compensation will be reduced by that percentage. So, an innocent comment about being distracted could end up costing you a significant portion of your settlement.


Protecting Yourself: What NOT to Say

After an accident, adrenaline can be pumping, and emotions might be high. But before you speak, take a deep breath! Here are some key things to avoid saying:


-Don't Play Detective: Statements like "I think the other driver was speeding" are just guesses and can't be proven. Leave the blame game to the professionals.

-Tough It Out: Brushing off your injuries with a "It's just a scratch" might seem tough, but it can hurt your case later. You never know how serious an injury might be until you see a doctor.

-Oversharing Medical History: Unless directly asked by a medical professional, there's no need to discuss pre-existing conditions unrelated to the accident. This information can be misinterpreted and used to downplay your current injuries.

-Admitting Fault: This one's a big no-no! Phrases like "I shouldn't have been texting while driving" might seem like an honest explanation, but they're essentially admitting fault. Let the facts speak for themselves.


What to Say Instead

So, what should you say after an accident? Here's how to keep your response clear and protect your rights:


-Stick to the Facts: Briefly describe the accident without assigning blame. "I was hit from behind at a red light" is much better than "The other driver ran the red light and slammed into me."

-Focus on Your Health: Let everyone know your priority is getting medical attention. Phrases like "I'm in pain and need medical attention" are direct and show the seriousness of your situation.

-Limit Conversation: Be polite, but keep things short. "I'd rather not discuss details until I speak with my lawyer" lets everyone know you're taking the situation seriously and seeking legal advice.


The Importance of Legal Counsel

Remember, you don't have to go through this alone. An experienced personal injury lawyer can be your biggest asset after an accident. Here's why:


-Communication Specialist: Lawyers know how to talk to insurance companies and other parties involved. They can ensure your statements are clear and accurate and don't accidentally weaken your case.

-Protecting Your Rights: Having a lawyer on your side levels the playing field. They can guide you through the legal process and make sure your rights are protected throughout your case.


Don't wait! Consulting with a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident can make a big difference in the outcome of your personal injury case.