After a traffic accident involving serious injury or wrongful death, you can expect the insurance companies to be pounding on your door (not literally, of course!) and calling you all the time for a "statement." Even though the insurance adjuster may tell you he or she is just trying to "gather up some information" or "get enough information to settle your case," the reality is that most insurance adjusters in serious accident claims are there to try to "trick" you into saying things that will hurt your case.
Be Very Careful About What You Tell the Insurance Adjuster—Especially If You Don't Have Your Own Lawyer Yet
It is generally a good idea not to give a recorded statement at all. Why? Because the insurance adjuster may be asking you "trick" questions that will hurt your case later on. If you have sustained any injuries in your auto accident, do not give a recorded statement without talking to your own lawyer first. It will definitely be used against you when you—with or without a lawyer—try to settle your claim. Even if you don't hire a lawyer, at least talk to one before you agree to give any recorded statement.
If you don't have any bodily injury, and your only claim relates to damage to your car, then you can probably settle your claim without hiring a lawyer. This is the ONLY situation in which you may be well served to go ahead and give that recorded statement. This way, you will be paid much more quickly on your property damage claim. However, you should still talk to a lawyer before you do this.
Am I Required to Give a Statement to the Insurance Adjuster?
The other driver's insurance company will call and want to pressure you into giving a recorded statement. The insurance company may even tell you that, by law, you have to give a recorded statement. That is FALSE! You are under no obligation to give a recorded statement to the other driver's insurance company. Many times, the insurance company will try to convince you that you are somehow required to give a "recorded statement." This is simply not true. In fact, it may be a terrible idea to give a statement to the insurance company:
- First, insurance companies hire seasoned professionals who may try to trick you into saying something that will hurt your case.
- Second, after a serious injury or wrongful death, you may not be in a position to give an accurate and complete statement.
- Third, anything you say to the adjuster may be twisted and used against you after your injury.
Insurance adjusters are highly skilled at manipulating you into making statements that can hurt your claim down the road. Your statement is "recorded" for this very reason—they want to use it against you if you pursue your claim.
So, if you think they want your "statement" just to get information so they can pay you on your claim, try this approach: tell the adjuster you are willing to give a "statement," but you don't want it to be "recorded." See how the adjuster reacts. If the adjuster wants your statement just to get information from you, why would they need it to be recorded? Can't they just take notes of what you say? Before giving any kind of statement to the insurance company, seriously consider getting your own independent legal advice.
What Is the Insurance Company Expecting to Gain From Getting a Recorded Statement?
The other driver's insurance company is looking out for its own interests and is not looking out for what is best for you. Insurance companies know that, immediately after an accident, most people have not hired an attorney yet. Your recorded answers could be used to severely limit how much money the insurance company pays you. What are they expecting in a recorded statement? They are hoping that:
- You will say something that can later be used against you. Getting a statement on record before you understand your rights allows the insurance adjuster to potentially twist your words into something you did not mean, which will be used against you at a later time.
- They will keep you from "changing the story" later on. By getting a statement while you are still reeling from accident, or before you know the full extent of your injuries, the insurance company can argue against anything that comes up later. For example, if you didn’t know you’d injured your back in an accident until a few days or weeks later, the insurance adjuster could argue that you didn’t mention back injuries in your earlier recorded statement.
Insurance companies have become increasingly aggressive in demanding recorded statements from accident victims, even when those statements are not legally required. While we often tell clients to avoid giving a recorded statement, we understand that it can be hard to avoid—especially if the adjuster from the other driver’s insurance is getting pushy about the issue. Sometimes, it’s just hard to say “no” to the person who stands between you and payment of your medical bills.
Just remember that the insurance adjusters are professionals at this sort of thing and have extensive training in taking statements from injured people. This is why it is important to always speak with an attorney before giving a recorded statement.
How Do I Know If the Insurance Company Is Trying to Trick Me?
If you want to know if the insurance company is trying to trick you, ask them these questions and see what they say:
- Before you take my statements, will you admit liability, put it in writing, and have the insurance company sign the letter?
- Before you take my statement, will you promise to pay for all my medical care until I am 100% recovered, and will you put that promise in writing, too?
- Before you take my statement, may I see a copy of your investigation file for this case?
- Before you take my statement, can I take a recorded or written statement from the person who hit my car?
- Before you take my statement, will you promise to settle my claim and send the settlement check within 30 days?
Most insurance adjuster will not answer these questions or follow through with the commitments in the questions. That's because they are not really trying to help you or settle your case quickly or determine what's wrong with you so they can pay your claim. They are trying to minimize what they owe you.
What Can I Do If I Can’t Avoid Providing a Statement to the Insurance Company?
While avoiding a statement is almost always the best choice, preparing yourself for a statement is probably the second best choice. If you feel like there is no way you can avoid giving some kind of statement to the insurance company, here are some tips:
- Speak with an attorney first. Remember that a recorded statement is probably not legally required, and victims who offer these statements before speaking with an attorney can easily wreck their claims without realizing it. If you absolutely must give a recorded statement, you can schedule a time to speak with the insurance company after you have a better understanding of your rights.
- Keep answers short and to the point. While you always want to be honest about what happened, you also don’t need to offer more information than is being asked for. Whether you are filling out the police report or talking to an insurance adjuster, keep your responses short and sweet unless you are speaking with your own legal counsel.
- Don’t guess if you don’t know. Victims may be asked to estimate details like speeds or distances while speaking to the adjuster, but it may be wise to avoid guessing if you’re not sure. Instead of feeling pressured to offer a guess, don’t be afraid to simply say that you don’t know. If you are pressed to offer an estimation or opinion, don’t be afraid to make it clear that it’s only a guess.
What If I’ve Already Given a Statement to the Insurance Company?
First off, don’t panic. Although it could cause some potential problems with your case, there may still be time to save your claim if you’ve already given a recorded statement. You are definitely not the first car accident victim to get talked into giving a recorded statement, and you probably won’t be the last. In fact, this is the most common mistake people make after they are in a car accident. Depending on the details of what you said and what happened, you could still build an injury claim that is stronger than the words being used against you. But you’re probably going to need help.
If you have given a recorded statement, getting compensation for your injuries may be more difficult. First, get informed about your rights so you can avoid further mistakes. Then, talk to an attorney who has experience with complicated auto accident claims. Not every case is the same, and not every attorney has experience, skills, and resources needed to take on a difficult accident case. Make sure you reach out to an attorney who can give you personalized attention, offer honest information about how the recorded statement might affect you, and has the skill and knowledge required to make sure a small mistake doesn’t become a big problem later on.
How Can I Get Help Dealing With the Insurance Company After an Auto Accident?
Whatever you do, don’t give the insurance company a recorded statement, no matter how nice they treat you after your accident. This is one of the insurance company’s favorite tricks. They’ll be nice to you so you’ll cooperate with their investigation—with the goal of getting you to incriminate yourself. This all may sound hard to believe, but it just one of a number of tricks that insurance companies use to protect their bottom lines. If you have any questions at all, don’t be afraid to get help. Talk to a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
The attorneys at VB Attorneys have handled many car wreck cases involving recorded statements. If you are receiving phone calls from the other driver's insurance company about giving a recorded statement or have already given a recorded statement and want to know your rights, contact us at 1-877-724-7800.