Peter G. Byrnes, Jr.
January 4, 2018
There are fewer more confusing and emotionally painful moments than the sudden shock of a serious car collision. There are so many things running through your head, but outside that car door lie many legal pitfalls. Here are some tips as to how to avoid them.
Please re-read that title. The common small-talk at the scene of the accident becomes evidence. But more frightening is the fact that it's not what you said, but what the witnesses there THINK you said. That's what they'll tell the police and repeat in court. When all of that adrenaline is flowing through your system, your body is instinctually (and incorrectly) behaving as if you are in physical danger. As such, your mouth is your worst enemy. People say things that sound like apologies, may tell someone that they are fine, and may give a partial account that sounds like an admission. And don't discuss fault with anyone. Only say what you must to the police. Which brings me to the next matter.
Even if you know for sure that you are at fault, just call and if there is no danger in remaining in your car, do so, with the door closed. Just tell the dispatcher that, "I've been in a serious car accident and I need the police." If they ask about an ambulance, don't refuse one. But that cop will serve several purposes. Most importantly, they will keep the peace at the scene. You never know if someone in the other car is a reasonable person or a nut. The police will also document everything. When asked, tell them what happened to the best of your recollection, but don't guess at anything. If you can't remember some detail when asked about it, just tell them that you are very shaken-up right now and that you need to gather your thoughts. Provide your license, car registration and insurance information to them.
Get the officer's card and cooperate as best you can. But remember, cooperation does not involve endorsing a particular account if you disagree with it. And if you hear something with which you disagree, make certain that you say so to the officer. Then tell the officer what it is that you do remember that conflicts with what you just heard. Don't argue with the other people at the scene. But make sure the cop hears your side and that anything incorrect is corrected.
Your cell phone has the ability to take audio and video. Use it at the scene, and make certain that you can clearly be seen using it. If people ask whether you are recording, tell them yes. That way, if someone later complains that they didn't want to be videoed, especially if they make admissions, they can't claim that they weren't on notice at the time. If there are other people present, all the better. Video the damage to your car and to the other car. Walk around the scene and take video of the approach to the scene and the area after the scene. Don't presume that someone else will do it for you.
And if they don't want to be recorded, tell them that they need to get away from you. It's a public place, and you have the right to document what went on. But don't turn it off.
If you feel in any way like your health is in any way compromised, let the EMTs check you over. If they recommend that you go to the hospital, then go. The last thing you want is someone later arguing that your injuries are somehow less serious than they are.
Peter G. Byrnes, Jr.
December 18, 2017
Abuse takes many forms. Physical abuse is just one factor. But berating, yelling, limiting your contacts with others, and withholding access to money are just a few tactics abusive spouses use. It's all about control. And it seems frightening to leave. But you can't live in that misery.
While there are women who are abusers, as my experience and practice have shown, the vast majority are men, and I will address this guide from that perspective.
That abuser will not change. He has you where he wants you. Scared to leave, afraid that you will be homeless, your children taken from you, rejected by your friends, family, church and society. Hoping that your kindness and submission will change his heart is a fantasy. He is very likely a narcissist, who loves himself far, far more than he could ever love another, including you. Your act of love is not interpreted as such. It is nothing more than the submissive response he desires. There is no incentive for him to change.
Go to a trusted relative or a friend. Grab the kids and go. Don't worry about packing. People matter. Things can be recovered and replaced. It will be the hardest thing you've ever done but it's where the abuser's power over you is cut.
You have just taken from the abuser the thing he needs the most--you. And like the adult brat that he is, he's going to throw a temper tantrum.
Sometimes he starts with the profession of love, pulling at your heartstrings. "I'll get help, I'll never do it again, I love you, can't live without you", etc. Hogwash! If he loved you, you wouldn't have needed to leave his grip. As hard as it is, stand your ground. "No" is your new favorite word. Because his words cannot be trusted. And when that doesn't work, he resorts to the next level...threats.
When feigned kindness fails, he shows his true colors by getting nasty. If it's a threat to take the kids, ruin you, never pay child support, quit his job so he has no money, get you fired from your job, publicly smear you, turn your friends and family against you, it's nothing that should scare or sway you, except to stay all the farther away.
Remember, he's not reacting this way because you drove him to it. He's doing it because you now have real power in the relationship. You have taken something from him (yourself as his servant) that he really wants. And he will employ every weapon in his arsenal to bring you back under his thumb. But threats of violence are different. And they need to be treated differently.
Saying that he might hurt you, the kids, pets, or even himself is a different level of manipulation, and it is not to be taken lightly. He is desperate. He has nobody to pick on. And if he's desperate enough to talk that way, there is real danger. Your decision to leave was absolutely the right one. And if he had the habit of hitting you, that was just the warm-up.
Threats of destruction either physically, economically or legally are where this emotional infant lives. But if you refuse to make yourself available to him, that's how you win. He gained his power over you by heavy-handed tactics. And that's how he intends to bring you back. Surround yourself with people who care about you. They can make the difference between success and failure.
It's just that simple. Go hire a well-regarded domestic lawyer. If you can't afford one, find some direction at a volunteer lawyer service, or a charitable organization like the local YWCA or House of Ruth that helps victims of abuse. Whatever you do, you need help from someone who won't be scared by any of it and who can ably shepherd you through the process.