Why You Shouldn’t Say “I’m Sorry” at the Scene of a Bicycle Crash — And What to Do If You Already Did
When you bump into someone, it’s a natural reaction for most of us to say something like, “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t see you coming!” and to take the blame in order to be polite and make the other person feel better. Which is why it’s so common for cyclists right after a crash — even a crash that wasn’t their fault at all — to apologize to the driver who just hit them.
While it’s nice to be polite, apologizing at the scene of a crash is actually a huge mistake.
By apologizing and being polite, you can accidentally end up admitting fault and taking the blame for the accident. And that can end up doing you a lot of harm in the long run, especially if you have injuries that should be covered by the driver’s insurance (or if the driver wants to sue you to get their damages paid for).
How fault works in a bicycle collision case
Fault is perhaps the most important factor in pursuing a case after a bicycle crash.
If you have injuries or property damage that you incurred because of being hit by a driver who was at fault for the accident, an attorney can help you get those bills covered by the driver’s insurance company by proving the driver was at fault.
They’ll do this by looking at the facts of the collision, like how fast the driver was going, any laws they broke, statements by witnesses who saw the crash, and anything else that can prove they caused the collision through their actions.
By proving the driver was at fault, an attorney can then negotiate on your behalf to have the damage to you caused by the crash covered by the driver’s insurance.
(Of course this works both ways — if you were at fault for the accident, you could also be liable for any injuries or property damage incurred by the driver.)
Obviously, no one — especially insurance companies — wants to pay someone else’s medical bills unless they really, really have to. They’ll work hard to prove that their client is not at fault, so they don’t have to pay. That’s why figuring out who was at fault for an accident is a very big deal, and why admitting fault at the scene can be extremely damaging.
What if you’ve already admitted fault at the scene?
Unfortunately, right after a bicycle crash, you probably aren’t thinking perfectly clearly, and you may accidentally apologize for the crash or take fault for it, even if it wasn’t your fault at all.
If you’ve already admitted fault for the accident, that is a strike against you. The driver could potentially use your apology or admittance of fault to make the claim that they weren’t at fault for the crash, or that you owe them coverage for the damages they incurred.
However, this isn’t an insurmountable problem necessarily. First, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney for a free consultation to talk about your options, and how you can still pursue a successful case. Look for a specialist who is an expert in bicycle collision cases, who will know all the ins and outs of a successful case and working with drivers and their insurance companies.
Next, give your attorney as much information as possible about the crash. Even an apology at the scene can’t outweigh the facts of a case that prove the driver was at fault, like witnesses who saw the driver running a stop sign.
Finally, don’t apologize or admit fault again. Let your attorney communicate on your behalf; if you do speak directly with the driver’s insurance company, be careful not to admit fault again and instead stick just with the facts.
What you should say instead of “I’m sorry” if you’re in a bike crash
If you are in a bicycle crash, it is best to simply take in as much information as possible, rather than saying too much.
It’s important not to apologize or take fault for the crash, and not to downplay your injuries either. If you make a big deal about not being that hurt, the driver could also use those statements later to claim that you shouldn’t be covered for injuries that later develop.
Instead, focus on getting information from the driver like their name, insurance information, and license plate. Don’t get too involved talking to them about the crash, what happened, who was at fault, or anything else — this is just not productive and could even be harmful.
Only tell your version of the story to the police for their police report, and be sure to ask how you can get a copy of the police report later, so that you can check and make sure it is accurate.
Focus on getting statements from witnesses and documenting photos of the crash scene and conditions. You’ll be able to use this information to build your case later, which is better than trying to build your case at the scene.
While it can be hard to control what you say right after a shocking collision, knowing not to apologize or inadvertently take fault is invaluable. When it comes to your safety and recovery, not saying “I’m sorry” is the best thing you can do.