The scene of an accident is never a good place to find yourself, but it happens. If you’re in a car accident, police should always be called to the scene. They are there to investigate the circumstances that led to the accident, make a written record of both party’s statements, and also to determine if there was anything criminal about the accident (such as when one party might have been drinking or driving). Police are there to bring order to the chaos, not to complicate it.
When the police arrive, is it okay to talk to them?
The short answer to this is YES. Not only is it okay to talk to the police at the scene of an accident, it’s something that you should do. There’s no reason to impede the investigation of the accident by refusing to talk to police. This looks suspicious and can cause great trouble later on if you need to bring a personal injury case against someone because of the accident.
That said, there is a proper way to speak to police at the scene of the accident. This includes politely answering questions and being very specific in your answers, but it does not include adding a huge commentary about what you think of the accident. While it’s understandable that anyone at the scene of a car accident may be disoriented and even injured, if you do have your wits about you make sure that you are not rambling on about extraneous things. Talk about the accident and answer specific questions.
The right way to talk to police after an accident
Just because you should talk to police after an accident doesn’t mean that you should talk to them about everything. There is a right way and a wrong way to answer questions about an accident, some of them documented here. Reaching a happy middle ground during investigative questions will be much more comfortable than answering everything until after you’ve contacted an personal injury law firm.
Since the scene of an accident is often one of injury and chaos, it’s natural that you’re not required by law to answer every single question an officer asks. Neither can you simply ignore questions. Police do have the right to ask for your license, registration, and insurance information. All of these things should be provided at the time of questioning. Despite the fact that police have the right to ask the questions, it is common sense that you would not want to admit fault to an accident that you don’t believe you were in fault of. If you have any doubt as to whether what you’re saying could be incriminating, avoid saying it until you’ve spoken with a lawyer.
Always be polite when you talk to police officers. Getting rude and hostile will backfire in the long run and there’s simply no cause to ever be rude to a police officer. They are there to help you and to do their job. As long as what you’re saying doesn’t incriminate you, feel free to say it and help them along in documenting the accident. After you’ve spoken with police at the scene of the accident, you’ll want to also call a lawyer.
Keep in mind that if an officer asks a question you are uncomfortable with, you have every right to respectfully decline to answer that question and move onto the next one. There is a difference between being cooperative and being harmful to your own situation. You are under no obligation to answer questions that are uncomfortable to you or that you are not entirely clear on. For example, due to the disorienting nature of car accidents, it’s natural that you may not specifically remember something an officer has asked you. If you are unsure, there’s no reason to answer. Answer later after you speak with a personal injury lawyer and have a clearer picture of what happened.
Car accidents can be very traumatic and when police arrive, there can be anxiety. It’s natural to feel this. Stay polite, though, answer questions you’re confident of, and always make sure to answer the big three things the police have a right to ask you for (license, insurance, and registration). Politely decline to answer questions that you’re unsure of or that might be incriminating.