Ideally, after a car accident, you should speak with your lawyer before you speak to anyone else. The immediate, unavoidable consequences of your situation, however, will very likely require at least some conversation with others.
It is essential to first understand and assume that anybody that you speak to who may affect the resolution of your accident, will be recording your every word. If you speak with the police, they have their bodycam, and if you speak to your insurance adjuster, they will be recording the call. (Most states do not require your permission to record a conversation if they, too, are a party).
Additionally, in this age where our expectations of privacy are diminishing at every turn, assume that the person(s) with whom you had your accident will likewise be secretly recording anything you say to them.
Dashcams are also common, which may have recorded the whole accident and any subsequent conversation. And, recordings of conversations will always be considered better evidence than a memorized recollection of what was said between two parties.
With that in mind, when you do speak with an individual, be very careful with what you say. We tend to apologize in uncomfortable situations even if we are certain that we are not at fault.
Apologizing, however, could indeed do more harm than good because such apologies have been used to help determine fault. This notable vehicle accident blog discusses some of the reasoning.
Better phrases to use would be, "Are you okay?" or "I wish we weren't in this mess." Such discussion maintains the standard cordiality, does not indicate blame, and shows sincere concern.
If possible, follow up those phrases with an open-ended question to get the other party to talk. "What happened?" is ideal because you just may obtain some information that could help you should the accident progress to litigation, or if your insurance company is trying to determine who should pay what.
Therefore, in a perfect world, you should not speak to anyone before you speak to your lawyer. If you know what to say when the inevitable interactions occur, however, you will be able to adequately protect yourself after the accident.
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