How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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I've always kind of wondered about this. If I'm in an accident and it really *is* my fault, why shouldn't I admit that?


Jerry, do you really think that you know enough facts immediately after the accident to concede liability? Also, you can theoretically jeopardize insurance coverage. Most policies have a condition that the insured will not admit fault or make any agreements to pay without the insurer's consent.

David Giacalone

This is America, Jerry, where lots of people never admit being at fault, and most of the rest "take full responsibility" with no expectation of having any consequences. Some really want to 'fess up, but ask themselves, "Do I want our house to belong to my kids, or the other driver's kids?" A very few are willing to take the blame and the consequences (but they find themselves in the High-Risk Pool).


She says she went through a red light and hit someone in the intersection. Her fault was fairly obvious. In a situation like that it's probably best to admit fault gracefully. There's no point in antogonizing the other driver or their insurance company. The "never admit fault" rule might be the best rule for the interests of the legal community, but it isn't necessarily the best rule for everyone else.


Xavier: Leaving Professor Althouse out of it (she's a law professor and can make her own decisions about what to do after an accident), I agree with Rufus. Next time you run a red light and cause an accident and stagger out of your car to engage the other driver in a conversation in order to "admit fault gracefully" and "not antagonize" him, you'll learn later that you ran the red light because it wasn't cycling properly and skipped the yellow; meanwhile, it will turn out that the other driver did have the red, but he was drunk off his ass and speeding and wasn't really paying attention when he slammed into your car.

What will happen to you next? Next, the lawyer who gets hired for you by your insurance company, who really doesn't give a rat's ass about "the legal community"--he's always been sort of a loner, if you want to know the truth--will work for about the next two years in your best interests trying to explain away your stupid confession of guilt. Why? Because it will turn out that the woman sitting in the passenger seat next to the drunk guy ended up breaking her back and can't work, but now has her eyes on your personal possessions because there's not enough insurance to go around and she used to make $60,000 a year at the auto factory--that is, until you ran the red light, caused her back to break, and then told her, her drunk boyfriend, the police officer, and ten other witnesses that you ran the red light and it was all your fault.

Will this happen to you? Probably not. But if it does, you're going to be a little morose and down about it, but you don't need to worry--David Giacalone will be more than happy to engage you in a little e-mail back and forth, during which you can chat about the problems with America, where it seems everyone's trying to get off easy and skirt their responsibilities--everyone, that is, except for you.

Okay, so are we all clear now???

P.S. Xavier: On re-reading this comment, I judge it to be too harsh. I apologize, take full responsibility, and have decided it's all my fault. I take the blame. I accept the consequences. I won't be commenting again, until maybe a little later in the day.

P.S.S. Xavier: Oops, I'm commenting already. I can't help myself. Did I thank you for your comment? Thanks. That one's sincere. You too, David.


Damn, Evan is fiesty today -- if I am ever injured while in S. Illinois, Evan will be the first attorney I call. Do you think he was reading Overlawyered right before commenting?

Note to David: And yes, I will negotiate a reasonable fee. You didn't think I would be silly enough to sign away a 1/3 of my settlement, did you?

david giacalone

JR, I'm sure Evan believes in "professional courtesy" [he'd count it as pro bono work in NY], so don't worry about a fee. If you do have to negotiate, I'd love to hear the details.

And, Even, aren't you always sincere (without wax, that is)? Please take that "o" out of the middle of my surname and save it for the next time you're writing about Walter -- with two "o's" please -- Olson. (or is it Oolsen?)


David: I've fixed the error. I really do know how to spell your name, but I got caught up in the heat of the moment and all that . . . Soorry.

E L Eversman

I thought the same thing when I read Professor Althouse's admission of responsibility for the accident. My next immediate thought was, "Oh, no. What will her insurance company say?" Because, of course, the first thing those lovely little cards they give you of what to do or not to do after an accident says: Don't admit fault. Exchange information. Get names of witnesses. Gee, they'll probably amend instruction one to read: "Don't admit fault -- even if you are a law professor and understand and accept responsibility for your own actions."

And people say we need tort reform. Why not just follow Professor Althouse's lead and act like adults?

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