Beware of the friendly insurance adjuster who asks for your recorded statement after an accident. Here’s what you should know to avoid costly mistakes.
If you’ve recently been in an accident, there’s a good chance an insurance claims adjuster will want to take your recorded statement. Don’t be so quick to agree.
You can expect the adjuster to call and ask for your statement within days of filing your insurance claim.
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 Adjusters Want Recorded Statements
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 the insured’s version of the events. The adjuster will 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 cold and formal. To the adjuster, you are just a name on a claim, one of the hundreds they handle every year.
Don’t let the adjuster’s demeanor give you a false sense of comfort. Even the most sympathetic-sounding claims adjuster is not your friend.
Insurance Adjusters Can Be Tricky
Many claims adjusters use recorded statements to try and trip-up claimants, getting them to say things that will hurt their claim.
Never give a recorded statement or answer any questions from the insurance company if you are upset, confused, taking medication, lacking sleep, or in severe pain.
If you choose to give a statement, be careful. What you say will become part of your claim forever. Don’t be rushed into giving a statement before you are good and ready. You can decline to give a recorded statement and say you will send a written statement instead.
You have the right to put off giving a statement until you’ve contacted a personal injury attorney for advice.
Most attorneys don’t charge for the initial consultation, making it much easier to decide if you should handle your own claim.
If an attorney represents you, you won’t have to deal directly with the adjuster. If you do end up giving a recorded statement, it will be done with your attorney at your side. The adjuster won’t be able to get away with tricky or misleading questions.
Attorneys Advise Against Statements
Most attorneys advise their clients not to give recorded statements. It’s just too easy for an unsuspecting claimant to say something that can be used 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.
For example, the adjuster says, “Good morning. How are you today?” Your response is, “I’m fine, thank you.” You’ve just made an “admission against interest” that could lower the value of your injury claim. Injured people aren’t “fine.”
If your injuries are serious and you’ve filed a lawsuit, offering a voluntary statement serves no purpose. Your statement will be given at deposition with your attorney there to protect you. The last thing an attorney wants is their client giving two separate statements that may conflict with one another.
In cases that will probably be settled without filing a lawsuit, 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.
Do You Have a Duty to Cooperate?
The adjuster might tell you they don’t have to process your claim if you don’t give a recorded statement. If your injury claim is against another person’s insurance company, it’s a third-party claim, and you don’t have to submit to a recorded statement.
If the claim is with your own insurance company, called a first-party claim, there will probably be language in your policy requiring you to give the insurance company the information they need to investigate your claim.
Nearly every auto insurance policy in the United States contains a Cooperation Clause that says 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.”
Your insurance policy is a contract, and the clause means you agree to provide information about any accidents you’re in. You may have no choice but to cooperate and give a recorded statement.
You are legally required to turn to your own auto insurance policy for injury claims in no-fault insurance states.
You would also turn to your auto policy when you’ve been injured by an uninsured motorist.
If you’ve purchased optional underinsured motorist coverage, you can make a claim on your policy when the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the cost of your damages.
While declining to give your statement does not always technically violate your contractual duty, 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.
What Happens in a Recorded Statement
After you file a claim, you’ll receive a call from the insurance adjuster about your accident.
The adjuster will ask you early on to provide a recorded statement. Keep in mind that even before you’ve agreed to provide a statement, anything you say can be used against you by the insurance company.
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.
After you tell what happened, the adjuster will begin asking questions. Adjusters are trained to ask questions designed to catch inconsistencies in your story.
Watch What You Say
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 go on a rant, complain, or discuss anything that may lessen the insured’s liability or the amount you can claim for damages.
Also, don’t make comments about your personal life 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 that you’d be willing to take a quick settlement because you need the money now.
If you decide to give a recorded statement, remember to stick to the facts.
Preparing Your Statement
If you choose to give a recorded statement, you should prepare an outline of the facts of your claim. The outline 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.
Don’t let the adjuster bully you into saying something that will tank your claim. You have the right to consult an attorney before giving a recorded statement.
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. Remember, just stick to the facts.
Example of a Statement Outline
- I left the house at about 7:00 a.m.
- I was driving northbound on Maple Avenue.
- Your insured was driving southbound on Maple Avenue.
- As I approached the intersection of Maple Street and Oak Street, your insured made a left turn in front of me and violently crashed into my vehicle. (Descriptive words give greater impact to your claim.)
- At all times, I was not distracted and had the right-of-way. (This statement helps block attempts to blame you.)
- I immediately felt a burning pain in my left hand. (Emphasize the pain and discomfort you felt.)
- Your insured got out of his vehicle, approached me, and asked if I was okay. He apologized for turning in front of me. (This is an admission against interest, showing the other driver admitted negligence.)
- Several witnesses stopped to help. Their names are Gretta Colver and Jose Cruz. (Hopefully, you got names and contact information for witnesses.)
- The police showed up several minutes later.
Continue to write down events in the order they happened, including medical care you received at the scene, and any follow-up treatment you’ve 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 and speakerphone.
Tell the adjuster upfront that you’ll also be recording your discussion.
Some insurance companies will send the claimant a digital copy of their recorded statement on a tape or disc. Almost all insurance companies have a typed-out version, called a transcript, of recorded statements. Tell the adjuster you’d like a copy of their recording and a copy of the transcript.
There is another benefit to having the recording. If your claim turns into a lawsuit, and you must 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 answers to questions from the insurance company.
Common Questions Asked by Adjusters
When a claims adjuster takes your recorded statement, they usually begin by saying their name and the date, then asking you to state your name, address, and phone number.
To establish that you’ve agreed to give your statement, they may ask:
- Do you understand this statement is being recorded?
- Have you agreed to allow this statement to be recorded?
- Do I have your permission to record this conversation?
If you were in a vehicle accident, you might be asked:
- What is the make, model, and year of the car you were driving?
- Are you the car’s owner?
- Were you driving your car for business purposes?
- Were other vehicles involved?
- Was your car damaged?
- Did you have passengers?
Typical questions about the accident may include:
- How did the accident happen?
- When did it happen?
- Are there witnesses?
- Were you using a cell phone when the accident happened?
- What did you do to avoid the accident?
Then the questions may get personal:
- What are your injuries?
- Did anyone call an ambulance?
- Were you treated at the scene?
- Have seen a doctor since the accident?
- Did you use any drugs or alcohol in the 24 hours before the accident?
- Are you employed?
- What kind of work do you do?
- How much money do you make?
- How are you doing today?
- Do you suffer from any chronic conditions or old injuries?
The adjuster will often finish up by asking if there’s anything else you want to say and if everything you said is true and accurate.
Video: Giving a Recorded Statement
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