Giving a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster without an attorney can be tricky. Here’s a helpful worksheet you can use to get ready.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will want to take your statement. What sounds simple – telling your side of the story – can end up hurting your claim.
If you decide to give a recorded statement, you can use this worksheet to help prepare what to say and avoid some common pitfalls.
Click on the image below to download a printable worksheet copy:
Beware of Giving a Recorded Statement
After you’ve filed an injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you can expect to hear from the adjuster assigned to your claim.
If you’re represented by an attorney, the insurance adjuster is not allowed to contact you directly. If you’ve decided to handle your injury claim without an attorney, be ready for a letter or phone call.
The adjuster will ask you to provide a recorded statement about the accident. They might even tell you it’s mandatory. What they won’t tell you is that most injury attorneys don’t recommend giving a recorded statement without legal representation.
What you say in a recorded statement can be used against you by the insurance company. Worse, insurance adjusters are trained to trick you into saying things that can hurt your claim.
Never allow an adjuster to put you on the spot by calling you up and asking for an immediate statement out of the blue. Politely decline and say you’ll be back in touch. If the adjuster wants to know if you’ll agree to a recorded statement later, say you’ll let them know.
You have the right to consult a personal injury attorney before agreeing to give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster.
You might consider offering to provide a written statement to tell your side of the story. In any case, you don’t have to provide a statement until you are ready, so don’t let the adjuster pressure you.
Never give a recorded statement when you are:
- In pain
- Taking pain medications
- Feeling unwell
If you’ve decided to provide a recorded statement, don’t do it until you are feeling better and have taken the time to prepare. The above easy-to-follow worksheet can help.
Basic Dos and Don’ts for Recorded Statements
Some adjusters are cold and intimidating, but plenty of adjusters are extremely courteous and seem very sympathetic. Watch out. The adjuster is never your friend.
Don’t share more information than is absolutely necessary. The adjuster doesn’t need to know that you’re going through a divorce, your boss is a jerk, or your rent is late. They might sympathetically say, “So, it sounds like you had a lot on your mind driving home that day…” Then before you know what happened, they’ll be saying you share part of the blame for the collision because you were driving while distracted.
Don’t admit fault or say you’re sorry. That doesn’t make you a mean person. Watch out for questions that suggest you were distracted, not paying attention, or driving too fast for road conditions.
Don’t make guesses. Even if the adjuster asks you to “give it your best estimate” say you don’t know and don’t want to guess. Don’t offer opinions, either.
Do make sure you understand the questions. Take the time to think before answering. Ask the adjuster to repeat the question if necessary, or to ask it differently if they use terms you aren’t familiar with.
Do stick to the facts. Keep answers to questions short. Write down exactly what happened, including the date, time, location and other facts of the accident, and refer to your notes.
Do prepare ahead of time. Use this worksheet to plan how you will answer common questions. try to anticipate specific questions about your accident the adjuster might ask.
Do consider talking to an attorney. Most personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation to car accident victims.
Common Areas of Questioning After a Car Accident
The first question might be, “How are you today?” Unless you are completely recovered from your injuries, don’t automatically say, “I’m fine.” What you think is simple courtesy can be used by the adjuster to minimize your injury claim, especially if you are still under medical care or off work because of your injuries. A better response might be, “Ready to make a statement, thank you.”
Expect the adjuster to start out by asking you to say your name, address, date of birth, and if you agree to be recorded. Then the adjuster will move on to questions about the accident, your injuries, and topics that might lead to issues of fault.
The adjuster conducting your recorded statement might ask questions in a different order than we are covering here, and will ask follow up questions, based on what you’ve already stated.
Watch out for the adjuster to repeat a question later in the conversation, although they might frame the question slightly differently. The adjuster wants to catch you contradicting yourself.
Questions About the Accident
You’ll be asked about the vehicle you were driving when the accident occurred. The adjuster may ask follow-up questions about the condition of the brakes, tires, lights, or even the windshield-wipers if the accident happened at night or during inclement weather.
You’ll be invited to tell the adjuster what happened. Stick to the facts. There’s no reason you can’t write out your statement in advance and read from it during your recorded verbal statement. You can also refer to your notes if the adjuster asks any follow-up questions. Don’t worry about taking the time to check your notes before answering a question.
Some adjusters will wait until you finish describing what happened before asking questions. Others might interrupt to ask for clarification. Again, look to your notes. Don’t worry about pausing before answering a question.
Be careful if the adjuster re-states something you said in a slightly different way, and asks you to agree. Don’t say “Yes.” Simply repeat exactly what you said before. It’s important to be consistent with your story.
The adjuster will ask about witnesses to the accident, including passengers in your car. If you have names, you can provide them. Don’t volunteer to share what the witness may have said to you after the crash. Don’t speak for other people, or presume to know how they feel about what happened.
Discussing Your Injuries in a Recorded Statement
Don’t volunteer information about your injuries unless the adjuster asks. If you are asked to describe your injuries, be brief. It’s enough to say something like, “I’m under a doctor’s care for injuries to my neck and shoulder.” Avoid using words like whiplash or other non-medical terms that might understate your injuries.
It’s okay to tell the adjuster if you were treated at the scene, taken by ambulance to the hospital, and the names of your doctors. However, do not agree to sign an authorization that allows the insurance company to get your medical records. Most insurance companies use blanket authorization forms that let them get all your private medical information for the last five or ten years.
Unless you are a licensed physician, you cannot predict the long-term effects of the car accident on your life. If the adjuster asks when you’ll be back to work or finished with physical therapy, it’s fair to answer to the effect that it will be up to your doctor.
You may be asked if you have any pre-existing conditions that could relate to your current injuries. You don’t have to volunteer information about your old football injury, but don’t lie about it either. It’s okay to say you had an old injury but the accident caused new and different pain or limitations.
If you lost time off work, you’ll be asked about your employer and your wages. Even if you aren’t claiming lost wages, you might still be asked. It helps the adjuster to negotiate a smaller settlement if they know you’re unemployed and really need the money.
Questions That Imply Your Fault
Adjusters know that a sure-fire way to minimize a payout or deny your injury claim is to shift all or part of the blame for the accident onto you.
Most states have some version of comparative or compensatory fault laws, meaning your potential compensation can be reduced or denied depending on how much of the blame for the accident falls on you.
The adjuster will ask what you could have done to avoid the crash. Similarly, they will ask how fast you were traveling, and when you saw the other car.
These days, you’ll almost certainly be asked if you were using a cell phone for talking or texting before the crash. If your claim ends up becoming a lawsuit, the other driver’s attorney will subpoena your phone records.
Another standard line of questioning involves your use of alcohol, street drugs, or prescription medications within 24 hours before the crash.
Finally, it bears repeating that you have the right to consult a qualified personal injury attorney before agreeing to give a recorded statement. Most injury attorneys don’t charge car accident victims for the initial consultation, so it costs nothing to explore your options.
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