“Do Not Admit Fault”
When my car insurance renewal came in the mail this week, I just shook my head when I looked at the little cards they send you entitled “What to do if you’re in an accident.” Item number one said, “Stay at the scene and do not admit fault.”
My first thought was, “Seriously? What if the collision actually was my fault? What am I supposed to do then? Lie to the officer? Keep my mouth shut when he or she asks ‘What happened?'”
Second, if I honestly believe the collision was my fault, or if I KNOW it was my fault because I ran a stop sign, I was not paying attention, etc., why can’t I take responsibility for my actions and admit I was wrong? Better yet, what if I actually apologized for my mistake?
My parents always made me do exactly that. It was downright awful sometimes to drag myself over the neighbor’s house when I had done something wrong (what I won’t say!), but my parents would no more let me get away with not apologizing than they would relieve me from my restriction.
Yet, now, I get a note from my insurance company telling me not to take responsibility for my actions. I understand a possible reason why they give this warming on the card – oftentimes people are shaken up at accidents and they say things they later regret or shouldn’t – but I just don’t think that reason outweighs the need to take responsibility and admit when you are wrong.
Insurance companies have tried to make the public believe that people are sue happy and that you should never say or do anything for fear of being sued. Bologna. In my experience as a trial lawyer, jurors believe in and appreciate personal responsibility. In fact, the civil justice system is built on personal responsibility. If more people had it, we’d have fewer disputes to settle in court. So have no fear in doing the right thing. As my wife likes to say, “if you break it, own it.”