Is There a Right and Wrong Way to Tell my Accident Story?

Young woman reporting to police about accident.

When you first tell someone what happened, whether it be a police officer, your significant other, a friend, an insurance agent or your lawyer, there are two things you need to do: 1. Be honest but also be careful how you tell your story.

So what do I mean by how you tell your story. Well a common mistake people make is not thinking about what they are saying. Sometimes people will tell a particular part of their story and it can have two meanings or it doesn’t come across as they intend. Most people form mental images of what they are being told as someone is telling them a story.

For instance if you tell someone that you were being chased, that conjures the image of you running away from someone else. However if you just meant you were being followed while you walked down the street then you have given the wrong impression of what actually happened. It’s important to remember that everything you say is being scrutinized. And your story is not just being scrutinized by your friends, an officer or even an insurance agent. It is being scrutinized by your own attorney. It is our job to advise you legally and that means sometimes giving bad news. We’re here to fight for you and also be your advocates, but sometimes that means telling hard truths. We are going to go find as much as we can to back up your story, so how you tell your story is incredibly important.

Another common mistake people make when they tell their story is what I like to call “gap filling.” Gap filling is when you are retelling your story and you guess as to a fact or a set of facts. Your memory is incomplete so you attempt to guess. Guessing is not lying but it is not telling the truth either. It is important to admit when you don’t know or remember something. There is nothing wrong with not knowing or not remembering. It’s more honest to admit you don’t know or you don’t remember than guess as to what happened. And if you are going to guess, make sure you are clear that you are guessing. It might be an informed guess, but you properly identified that you don’t really know.

A common example of this is how fast were you or the person who hit going. Were you looking at your speedometer? Were you looking at the person who hit you speedometer? Most likely the answer is no because most motor vehicle crashes happen in a matter of seconds. Add on top of that so many of us make the same drives every day that we really don’t remember what happened on any normal day, is it really unusual that you might not know the exact speed you were going? And you certainly don’t know the speed of the person who hit you. That’s ok if you don’t know or remember and it is the honest answer.

The goal with all of this is to be honest. Being honest means thinking about what you are going to say so it is not misconstrued and making sure you are not guessing. If you follow these few simple rules, your story will be clearer and more on point with what actually happened.


Michael established The Sawaya Law Firm in 1977 and built it into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Colorado, with more than 20 lawyers and 80 staff members serving clients from five offices located in Denver, Greeley and Colorado Springs. Throughout its history, the firm has stayed true to its 12 Core Values, which emphasize excellence in advocacy and a commitment to providing outstanding client service. Michael studied sociology and economics as an undergraduate student at The Colorado College, and he earned his law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. In addition to being involved in several legal and community organizations, Michael enjoys playing music and cooking, and he has written a book on spiritual matters.