In the immediate aftermath of a car or other accident, there will often be a great deal of confusion regarding your legal rights and obligations. If you or another person has suffered personal or property damage, the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty can magnify. What should your next steps be? How can you protect your rights? Will your damages be reimbursed and be whom? In the midst of these questions, you may find yourself contacted by the opposing party’s insurance agent or adjuster, with a request that you provide a recorded statement of your version of the events. While this may seem like a harmless request, in reality, it could be harmful both to your ability to recover and could potentially subject you to unwarranted liability for the accident.
First Things First…
While the insurance representative may seem like they are acting in an official capacity, the most important thing to remember is that you are not legally obligated to speak. If you have, or will be filing a lawsuit to collect damages, the other party and their insurance representative will have the opportunity to hear your side of the events at that time. Not giving a statement will not “make you look guilty” and doesn’t create the presumption that “you have something to hide,” regardless of any adjuster’s statement to the contrary.
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Give a Recorded Statement
In addition to it not being required, there are many reasons why you should not voluntarily give a statement to the opposing party’s insurance or claims adjustor. Immediately after an accident that previously mentioned stress and anxiety could affect the way you remember specific facts and circumstances. When speaking off the cuff, you are much more likely to miss-phrase your words or try to fill in the blanks on unclear portions of your memory.
It is also important to remember who adjusters represent. These insurance representatives’ primary mission is to uncover facts that reduce the liability on behalf of their employer. Agents are trained to ask leading questions, often minimizing your injuries or subtly placing all or a portion of the blame for the accident on you in an attempt to limit the amount the insurance company will have to pay out. While you can correct ambiguous, unclear or contradictory statements in court in the event of a lawsuit, the stronger case has a consistent narrative from the outset. It is easier to obtain a consistent narrative through thoughtful, written recollection of the events, often reviewed with legal counsel who has your best interests in mind.
Medical and Other Records
On the topic of things you aren’t required to communicate in the event of an accident, insurance adjusters will often request your medical or other personal records as part of their “regular claims process.” This is another piece of information that you are never required to provide to someone who is making the request via phone or does not represent your interests. Information in your personal medical history can, and will, be “spun” in an attempt to mitigate your valid injuries and claims. Medical information should only be released after you have had an opportunity to thoughtfully consider your legal rights, preferably after you’ve sought advice from an auto accident lawyer.
The Bottom Line
In summary, after an accident, it is not in your best interest to speak to any representative of the other party’s insurance company without a thorough understanding of the implications of the information you will be providing. You are not legally obligated to provide a recorded statement. Finally, you are always entitled to consult with an experienced lawyer regarding your legal rights and obligations and any potential recovery after an accident. With this knowledge in your arsenal, you are much better equipped to make the best decisions for yourself and your family.