If you've recently been in an accident, there's a good chance an insurance claims adjuster will want to take your recorded statement. The adjuster will likely contact you by phone a few days after filing your claim to take a statement.
Opinions vary on whether or not a claimant should agree to give a recorded statement. On the one hand, giving a statement expedites the investigation and settlement of the claim. On the other hand, a statement serves no legal purpose, and if the claimant isn't careful, it could ultimately harm their claim.
Why does the adjuster want a recorded statement?
Taking your statement allows the adjuster to hear your side of the events leading to your injury, and the aftermath. Otherwise, the adjuster only has her insured's version of the events. She'll use both statements, along with those of witnesses, and police and incident reports, to build a better picture of the claim.
Some adjusters are quite pleasant, while others may be less so. Remember, this is business. To the adjuster, you are just a name on a claim, one of hundreds she handles every year.
Unfortunately, many claims adjusters use recorded statements to try and trip-up claimants, getting them to say things that will hurt their claim. If you choose to give a statement, you must be careful. What you say will become part of your claim forever. You can decline to give a recorded statement, and say you will send a written statement instead.
Why do attorneys advise against giving recorded statements?
Most attorneys advise their clients not to give recorded statements. A naive claimant will likely say something that can be used by the claims adjuster to weaken their case. Adjusters are experts at getting claimants to say things that can lessen the at-fault party's liability, or reduce the amount the claimant can demand for compensation.
If your case is serious and you've filed a lawsuit, offering a voluntary statement serves no purpose. Your statement will be given at deposition. The last thing an attorney wants is her client giving two separate statements that may conflict with one another.
In less serious cases where a lawsuit probably won't be filed, many attorneys will only allow their clients to give a recorded statement with the attorney present. That way, the attorney can keep the claimant from saying anything that may hurt their claim, and make sure the adjuster doesn't ask inappropriate or irrelevant questions.
After a claim is filed, the adjuster will first take the insured's recorded statement. She will then contact the claimant to take their statement. You will receive a call and the adjuster will introduce herself and explain why she's calling.
She will then ask to take your recorded statement. She'll turn on her recording device and again introduce herself, state the date of the recording, the date of loss (date the injury occurred), and the claim number. She'll then ask, for the record, if she has your permission to take your recorded statement.
Once you begin making your statement, the adjuster will probably let you speak without interruption. The adjuster wants to hear what happened in your words. She may however, ask clarifying questions.
Some crafty adjusters will ask leading questions or clarifying statements designed to weaken your claim. For example, "It sounds like you were going a bit fast around the corner?" or "Thank goodness your back injury wasn't as bad as you thought it was."
This is why it's so important to stick to the facts. Never editorialize, complain, or discuss anything that may lessen the insured's liability or the amount you can claim for damages. Also, don't make personal comments such as, "This came at a bad time," or "I'm going through a divorce."
Volunteering information about personal problems could lead the adjuster to think you were distracted by those problems, which affected your judgment, leading to the accident. Or, it could indicate to her that you'd be willing to take a quick settlement, because you need the money now. If you choose to give a recorded statement, remember to stick to the facts.
If you choose to give a recorded statement, you should prepare an outline of the facts of your claim. This will help you remember all the important points and keep you on track during the call.
Once you give a recorded statement, you can't take it back. Anything you say will become part of your claim. That's why it's so important to be well-prepared. If the adjuster calls before you're ready, politely say you're busy and ask to reschedule.
Prepare by going over the details of the events leading to your injury, the actual injury-event, and the effects it's had on your life. Make an outline of the details surrounding the events leading to your injuries. Remember, just stick to the facts.
Example of a Statement Outline
You'd continue to write down the events in chronological order, including any treatment you have received to date. Stick to the facts and you should be fine. Don't allow the adjuster to throw you off track or get you to make judgments about outside factors. If the adjuster interrupts to ask a question, politely decline to answer and continue with your statement.
Make Your Own Recording
You have every right to record your statement, the same as the adjuster. This way you can easily refer to your statement while preparing your claim, and the adjuster won't be able to twist your words. There are free programs online to record Skype calls, and apps to record calls on your smartphone. You can even do it with an old fashioned tape recorder.
Simply notify the adjuster that you will be recording the statement also. Some insurance companies will send the claimant a digital copy of their recorded statement. Ask if you can get a copy, you might get lucky.
There is another benefit to having the recording. If your claim turns into a lawsuit, and you have to give a deposition or testify at trial, you'll be able to review exactly what you said during your previous statement. It's very important to give consistent statements.
If you live in a no-fault state, or if you're filing a claim under the Uninsured Motorist portion of your auto policy, you may have no choice but to cooperate and give a recorded statement. Your insurance policy likely contains a Duty to Cooperate clause stating something like this:
The insured has a duty to cooperate in the investigation of the claim, including submitting all documents and communications relating to the claim, giving authorization to obtain medical and other records, and providing any other relevant information and communication deemed necessary to process the claim. Failure to cooperate may result in claim denial."
While declining to give your statement does not violate your duty to cooperate, unless you are represented by an attorney who advises against giving your statement, or there are compelling reasons not to give your statement, it's probably a good idea to cooperate.
If you live in a traditional fault state and you're filing a third-party claim, you have no contractual obligation to give a recorded statement, although refusing to give one may delay your claim. There's no reason why the insurance adjuster can't accept a written statement, which would be less nerve-racking for the average claimant.
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