Whether you should talk to police after an accident is a tricky question. Each situation is different and the right course of action will depend on the specifics of the situation. When most drivers are involved in an accident, their first inclination is to be cooperative with the police when they arrive to investigate the accident. There are many reasons for this, from trying to deflect possible blame, to nervousness, to having a gregarious personality. There are some important things to know, though, before you talk to the police after an accident in the Commonwealth.
There are two different dynamics going on in an auto accident. The first is of a civil nature, meaning that if someone is injured or there is damage to property, there is a potential for civil liability. Whether this stems from insurance claims or a lawsuit for personal property damage or personal injury, fault comes into play. While this can be incredibly serious, this is not the most serious aspect of a car accident.
In many accidents, when the police arrive to investigate, they will assign blame to one or both of the parties involved. Here is where things can get complicated. Depending on the officer’s determination, a driver might be charged with a violation (a regular traffic ticket), a crime (reckless driving), or nothing at all. This being the case, many drivers feel compelled to explain the accident to the responding officer. This can be a huge mistake.
Statements are important to the police in determining who is at fault in an accident. However, what you say can and will be used against you. It is important to note that when a police officer files a police report regarding an accident, the report itself is typically not admissible into evidence. However, the statements that the parties make regarding the accident usually are.
So, should you speak with the police? While there is no general rule, if the accident is minor and there are no injuries and very little property damage, there is typically no harm in giving a statement to police. However, you should never admit blame, take responsibility for the crash, or lie. On the other hand, if the accident is more serious, there is substantial property damage or injury, or you feel that you may be to blame for the accident, the usual advice is to not give a statement to the police. This is because the police could construe something you say in such a way that might result in you getting charged with a crime like reckless driving (a Class 1 misdemeanor) or aggressive driving (a Class 2 misdemeanor) instead of getting a civil traffic ticket. Any statement of this nature is probably admissible in court unless your defense attorney can get it thrown out of court.
If you have ever been in an accident, you know that it can be a confusing time. The police are there to do a job and the parties to the accident are naturally on opposing sides. Drivers must understand, though, that Virginia has laws that criminalize many actions that most of us take for granted as something that would just get a ticket. If you find yourself in an accident, it is hard to know the right thing to do. If you are in this situation and have been charged (whether you gave a statement or not), you need to protect your rights. Jad Sarsour has been defending clients in Northern Virginia against all types of traffic tickets and auto accident-related crimes for over 10 years. Give him a call today at (571) 261-7314 to set up your initial consultation and let him explain what he can do to ensure that your rights are protected.