Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Halakhic ruling: Confession at time of accident is invalid


The head of the Eretz Hemda-Gazit High Court, Rabbi Yosef Gershon Carmel, recently ruled that a driver of a vehicle that hit a moving car while leaving a parking lot must pay the owners of the damaged vehicle the amount of money their car repair cost.

In the ruling, the court ruled that the fact that the damage to the vehicle traveling on the road was on the car's side and not front is evidence that the culprit in the accident was the driver who was leaving the parking lot.

The ruling also states that the way to determine guilt in an accident is based, among other things, on traffic laws, according to which the increased duty of care is imposed on a vehicle exiting a parking lot and not on the driver traveling on the road.

The court also heard the claim that the driver of the damaged vehicle drove at a higher speed than usual, and ruled that the relatively high speed does not absolve the offending driver from liability, as long as it is not higher than allowed, and that the burden of proof lies with the offending driver. .

Another question that came up in the discussion was the significance of the fact that shortly after the driver exited her car, at the time of the accident, she allegedly admitted that she was to blame for the accident because she was driving fast.

The tribunal accepted the driver's claim that the admission was said out of the pressure she was under immediately after the incident, and ruled that the confession did not bind her, for three cumulative reasons.

First, it was not an explicit admission of pecuniary liability, but rather an apology. The driver had no way of knowing at the time of the apology whether she was the one who was financially to blame for the accident or the driver of the other vehicle.

In addition, the tribunal brought the opinion of some Rishonim, according to which a confession that was not said before two witnesses is not a confession at all, but are to be considered just empty words. According to this approach, which is held by, among others, the Baal HaMaor, the Raav'ad and others, only if the confession was said before witnesses should it be taken seriously, because only in front of witnesses is a person careful and meticulous in his words and does not speak loosely.

As a third argument, the tribunal cited a ruling by Rabbi Avraham Dov Levin, who ruled that a claim that one's confession of guilt was uttered in a time of stress and under emotional influence is an acceptable excuse, which allows a confession to be revoked.

In view of all this, the court ruled that the driver's confession does not nullify her right to assert her legal rights and does not prevent her from claiming what she deserves. The tribunal therefore ruled that the offending driver must pay full damage, whether his insurance company will bear it or whether he will have to pay it out of his own pocket.

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