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In a recent blog, we explored the perils of giving a statement to an insurance company that isn't your own, which you are never legally obligated to do and we generally advise against, since the information you give can be used to hurt your case against them.
However, when you've been hurt in an accident or had extensive property damage to your home through no fault of your own, it's possible that your own insurance company will want you to provide a recorded statement. This is a similar but different situation, since your signed insurance policy may state that you must cooperate with the insurance company's request for a statement.
If you are required by your own insurance company to give a statement, there are certain best practices that you and your attorney should discuss before you provide that statement. Below are some best practices to consider:
- Contact a lawyer. Your attorney will act in the best interest of your case and can help you prepare for the type of questions an insurance adjuster might ask and how best to answer them. The personal injury attorneys of Commonwealth Law Group have years of experience dealing with insurance adjusters and claims agents and can advise you on how best to proceed.
- Keep in mind that despite the friendliness of the person taking your statement, that person is not your friend. It's in the insurance company's best interest to minimize claim payouts, and this person works for that insurance company. Therefore, they are not your friend. Be wary of them; keep your guard up.
- Ask specifically that your statement not be recorded. If the statement is recorded, your exact words will be used to compare with other statements you may have given, such as your police statement. Any discrepancies, no matter how small or unintentional, can cause problems for your case.
- Give brief answers. Try to answer each question in as few words as possible. Don't explain. If you are specifically asked to explain, do so in as few words and with as little detail as possible.
- Don't volunteer information. Even if you think it will help your case. Let your lawyer handle anything that is left unsaid.
- Answer only the question asked. Think deeply about the exact question the agent asked, and only provide that specific information.
- Never admit to fault. Never admit to even being partially at fault.
- Never admit that you are uninjured. When you're in an accident, your body releases adrenaline, a powerful hormone that can mask injuries and pain to get us through stressful or traumatic situations. Because of this, it can take several days for an injury to surface after an accident. Yet if you speak to your insurance agent within 24 hours of an accident and say that you aren't feeling any injuries, it could negatively impact your potential compensation for your injuries.
- If you're unsure what you're being asked, refuse to answer. Don't offer an ambiguous reply such as "maybe" or "I guess so" – simply refuse to answer.
- Similarly, if you don't know the answer to a question, state firmly, "I don't know."
- Avoid discussing your injuries or your medical prognosis. Both are ongoing and subject to change as time passes. Your lawyer will do that for you.
- Stick to the basics. If you're asked about the specifics of the accident, simply let the agent know where your vehicle is so they can assess damages themselves. If they press you for details about the accident, refer them to the police report, since you have already given the police a detailed recollection of the accident.
- Don't sign any document from the insurance company without consulting your lawyer. This includes both the insurance company transcript of your statement and also any medical records release form.
- Don't let the insurance agent rush you into a settlement. Even though you might need the settlement to pay for repairs or medical bills, don't let them rush you into taking a settlement that could be far too low for the situation at hand.
- Don't assume that your insurance agent is on your side. Statements made to insurance companies are not protected by attorney-client privilege. Because of this, they can be subpoenaed into evidence in the event you move forward with a lawsuit and the opposing insurance company would then have access to your statement. In addition, there are circumstances where your own insurance company may not hold your best interests. For example, if the at-fault driver in a car accident is uninsured or loses coverage, your insurer may have to pay the claim on his or her behalf. In this case, your insurance company is at odds with your best interests and anything you said in your statement could hurt your case.
Always be honest when making a statement, but keep your best interests at the forefront of your mind by consulting with your attorney before the statement interview. Call us now to learn more.
If you have been injured at work or through the negligence of another individual or entity, contact us at (804) 999-9999 or or use the form below to connect with our legal team. We will fight to get you the justice you deserve.