Do I Still Have a Case If I Admit Partial Fault in an Accident?
Attorneys always advise clients never to utter a single syllable that could be interpreted as an admission of fault. Unfortunately, most clients never hear this advice until they are in the attorney’s office, discussing an accident that has already happened, when they sheepishly admit, “Maybe, I might have said I was sorry for . . .” At this point, the case may not be lost, but it could be damaged. The client has made an admission against his own interest, to which any witness can testify in court. How damaging the statement might be depends upon the law of the state in which the accident took place:
- Virginia — The commonwealth treats any negligence on the part of an injured person as a complete bar to recovery, even if someone else is mostly responsible for the harm. Your admission of contributory negligence could eliminate any chance of recovery.
- North Carolina — Like Virginia, North Carolina disallows any recovery of damages for an injured party who is at all responsible for causing an accident. But the state balances this harsh outcome by applying the rule of “last clear chance.” This rule covers a situation where one person carelessly puts himself in danger of harm from a second person, who can avoid doing harm if he is careful. If the second person carelessly misses the chance to avoid hurting the first person, the law of contributory negligence does not apply. The first person may sue for compensation.
- South Carolina — The state allows an injured party who is less than 50 percent to blame for an accident to seek compensation from other responsible parties. However, the court reduces the amount of compensation in proportion to the injured party’s fault.
Depending on the state in which your accident took place, your admission of partial fault puts you in jeopardy of losing all or much of your potential recovery. But the situation is far from hopeless. Your attorney may be able to work around your statement by presenting evidence that:
- You were expressing general regret that an accident had occurred or sympathy for the other party’s losses.
- You were mistaken about being at fault.
- The fault you admit to did not cause the accident.
- After you committed some fault, the other party still had a chance to avoid doing harm but missed that chance through his own negligence.
Contributory negligence laws can produce harsh outcomes, and defense lawyers use them all the time to limit or eliminate the amount their clients have to pay in damages. To combat such tactics, you need skilled legal representation with the experience to repair any damage your inadvertent admission might have done.
For skilled representation for your vehicle accident, contact a law firm with more than 175 years of combined experience. Call (888) 351-1038 or contact Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban P.C. online to schedule a free consultation.