As a car accident lawyer in Biloxi, one of the most common questions I hear on a regular basis is: “Should I give an insurance adjuster a recorded statement?” People who have been involved in an auto collision often have so many other important issues to deal with that taking the time to research effective ways to handle insurance adjusters is just impractical and sometimes impossible. Clients who have questions about giving statements to insurance companies are usually dealing simultaneously with contacting car rental companies, fixing their vehicles, asking for time off work, and coping with painful injuries. This question can apply to other types of insurance as well, but the issue most frequently arises in car accident cases.
Despite the uncertainty many people face about speaking with insurance companies, the conversation you have with a claims adjuster after your vehicle collision can actually make or break your car accident claim. Before you answer any questions or agree to anything, you need to seek out the legal advice of a lawyer with experience in car accident law. Every car accident claim is different, and only by working with a capable legal representative can you be sure that an insurance company will not be successful in taking advantage of your situation.
So is it ever okay to give an insurance adjuster a recorded statement? In the simplest terms, the answer is that it depends on who the insurance adjuster is. Firstly, if you are speaking to an insurance adjuster from your own insurance company, you will most likely need to provide a recorded statement at some point in order to cooperate under the terms of the policy. However, you are able to dictate the timing and terms of that conversation so that you can be prepared to answer the questions. On the other hand, if you are contacted by an insurance adjuster working for a company you do not have coverage with, you are in no way obligated to provide a recorded statement to that company’s representative. Call your lawyer immediately if another insurance company’s claims adjuster unlawfully attempts to extract a statement from you.
Let’s look a bit more closely at what happens when you speak with an insurance adjuster from your own company or another company, what potential pitfalls you should consider, and how a lawyer can help protect your rights.
Speaking with Your Own Insurance Company
Insurance companies appoint claims adjusters to review and make assessments on accident claims. The insurance adjuster who contacts you may be a direct employee of the insurance company or may have been hired through a third party. The insurance adjuster’s job is to contact policyholders who have been involved in accidents and record details about the incident. It is also the claims adjuster’s job to save the insurance company as much money as possible.
You may be shocked to find that you are contacted by your insurance company within 24 hours of the accident. This is common practice within the auto insurance industry, and in some sense it may seem reasonable, as the details of the incident are fresher in your mind closer to the time of the crash. While that may be a plausible point, it is also true that most people are in no mental or physical condition to give an accurate statement so soon after a harrowing and life-changing event like a car crash. And even more concerning, you probably have not had time to speak with your lawyer or learn the full extent of your injuries and other damage. We will look at this issue further when discussing how an insurance company can use your statement against you.
When an insurance company obtains a recorded statement, they have tangible, unchanging proof to use in your accident case. As you understand more about the incident, its causes, and its repercussions, you may realize that parts of the statement you initially gave the insurance adjuster were not exact, not accurate, or are no longer true. But an inconsistency in your statement can be used by the insurance company to try to prove that you are unreliable or dishonest. Once the insurance company has obtained your recorded statement, they can use it in any way they choose to verify their own decisions.
If you are asked for a recorded statement during your initial phone call with the insurance adjuster, you do not need to say yes. It is well within your rights, and highly advisable, to have a good conversation with your lawyer before saying anything to an insurance company about the accident. There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling an insurance adjuster you are not ready to give a recorded statement and would like to speak with your attorney first.
Speaking with Another Party’s Insurance Company
Based on a long history of advocating for auto crash victims, the best advice I can give when it comes to speaking with another party’s insurance adjuster is just don’t do it. The only objective an opposing party’s insurance company has in contacting you is to try to obtain a statement proving you were at fault in the accident. In most cases you have no legal obligation to give another insurance company your statement. If an adjuster from a company that does not provide you coverage tries to contact you, inform your lawyer immediately.
We’ll look now at some ways an insurance company can use your recorded statement to undermine your claim and deny you your deserved compensation.
How Your Statement Can Be Used Against You
We are all familiar with the fact that insurance companies are businesses. While they provide an important service to people who operate vehicles, when it comes down to it, an insurance company’s goal is to make money. This means that companies train employees in practices and methods which persistently aim toward cutting cost and minimizing payout. The company’s goal is to get away with paying you as little as possible after an accident. One way they are able to do this is by scrutinizing your statement for loopholes and weak spots, using your own words to justify an unreasonably low settlement offer. The following are some factors which can make your recorded statement susceptible to misuse:
- Inexact Language. Insurance adjusters are known to use confusing language and misleading questions to try to trap an accident victim into saying something they don’t really mean or are not sure about. Phrases we commonly use in everyday language like “I’m fine,” “I guess so,” “I’m not sure,” “I don’t know,” “It’s okay,” or even “I didn’t mean to” are often taken to mean anything the insurance company wants them to mean.
- Inability to Focus on the Phone Call. After a traumatic event like a vehicle wreck, most people are confused, disoriented, emotional, and upset for several hours, days, weeks, or longer. Many people are also experiencing severe pain and exhaustion after their accident, and they may be taking prescription medications which can make the brain cloudy and fuzzy. If any of these apply to you, and especially if you are unprepared and have not spoken with your lawyer, under no circumstances should you give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster.
- Lack of Knowledge about Your Injuries. When an insurance claims adjuster calls you within a day or two of the wreck, you are most likely in no position to give an accurate report of the extent of your injuries. If you tell the insurance adjuster, “It’s not too bad,” and then learn from your doctor the next day that you have internal bleeding, the insurance company will most certainly use your first statement against you. In a situation like this, you can be cheated out of the money you need to cover your medical bills. In the days and weeks after your accident, you should be on the lookout for any symptoms that your condition may be worsening. Complications can appear long after the crash, and you need to be attentive to your health, not your insurance company, to make sure you are healing as you should be.
How a Lawyer Can Help You
An insurance company is not on your side, but a good attorney will be. If you choose the right lawyer, you can be certain that there is someone in your corner fighting for what you are entitled to under the law. There is no doubt that dealing with an insurance company is intimidating, especially when you consider how much is at stake physically, emotionally, and financially in the outcome of your case.
Having someone you can depend on, someone with experience dealing with insurance adjusters and the tricky questions they ask, makes all the difference in both the outcome of the case and the experience you have throughout the process.
Contact a Biloxi, MS Attorney Who Cares
Having worked alongside hundreds of car crash victims as a legal advocate, I know that the healing process following an accident consumes nearly every part of your life. You shouldn’t have to spend the little time and energy you have tiptoeing around insurance adjusters who are waiting for you to make a mistake.
When your lawyer takes on the responsibility of making sure insurance adjusters are given no room to misappropriate your statement, you can focus on what’s really important in your own life. A good lawyer should be willing to put in more work and longer hours than anyone else to guarantee that your case is treated with the dignity and care it deserves.
If you have been unfairly injured, reach out to my office today. From the moment we meet until your case is closed, I will go above and beyond to see that you receive the compensation you need, deserve, and are entitled to under the law.
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