How a Recorded Statement Can Ruin Your Slip & Fall Injury Claim

Learn about the use of recorded statements in your slip and fall claim. What you say may decrease your injury compensation, so know your options.

Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere, including hotels, grocery stores, on private property, in malls, and even in the workplace.

If you sustain injuries in a fall, you can file a slip and fall claim with the at-fault property owner’s insurance company.

Before you see a dime for your injuries, it’s up to you to prove to the insurance company that the owner created a hazard on their property or failed to remove one.

Sometimes an insurance claims adjuster will call and ask you for a recorded statement in support of your claim.

The claims adjuster might even tell you that you are required to give a statement, or or that you don’t need an attorney. However, you should carefully consider all your options before agreeing to the adjuster’s demands.

You have the right to consult a personal injury attorney before speaking to the claims adjuster or giving a recorded statement.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that giving your statement is no big deal. In fact, you could ruin your chances of receiving fair compensation by agreeing to provide a recorded statement on your own, with no preparation.

How Your Statement Helps the Insurer

The insurance adjuster will use your recorded statement to understand the incident and your injuries from your point of view.

The adjuster then compares your recorded account with other pieces of evidence. They will examine any police reports, incident reports, medical records, and witness statements, looking for any inconsistencies in your version of the events.

The compensation you receive for your claim will partially depend on the details you provide and how well they fit with these other documents.

If you give a statement that hurts your claim, the insurance company will benefit by decreasing your compensation. The less they pay on your claim, the more money they can keep.

Keep in mind that a recorded statement is part of the permanent record for your slip and fall claim.  A permanent record means there is no debating what you did or did not say. For this reason, some adjusters might try to get you to say things that will harm your claim. They might even try to confuse you or twist what you’re saying.

Granted, some insurance adjusters can be pleasant and friendly. They might show what seems like genuine concern for your well-being and come across as sympathetic to your injuries.

No matter how an adjuster acts, don’t let your guard down. Unfortunately, adjusters are not your friend. Their job is to do what is best for the insurance company by denying your claim or paying you as little as possible.

Why Lawyers Discourage Giving Statements

Lawyers generally advise injury victims against giving a recorded statement to a claims adjuster without legal representation. Most people don’t have the legal knowledge or experience to realize what could be used against them.

Once something potentially harmful is said, there is no taking it back.

Insurance companies train injury claim adjusters to get injured parties to say things that can weaken their claim.

For instance, if the adjuster asks how you are today, you might respond with a simple “Fine, thank you,” “Okay,” or “Good.” However, the company can take your polite response to mean you don’t have any injuries, or your injuries have healed.

Recorded Statements and Lawsuits

If you intend to file a lawsuit, there’s no need to provide a recorded statement in advance.

Your attorney will give an overview of the facts in the court documents. Later, the lawyer representing the at-fault party will schedule a deposition, where they will ask you questions under oath.

Attorneys use depositions to gather sworn testimony out of court. Depositions usually take place after a lawsuit is filed, and before a trial.

Both sides can schedule depositions to ask involved persons a series of questions about the injury-causing event. The person answering these questions is the deponent.

For example, your attorney can depose the store manager on duty when you fell, as well as any witnesses who saw what happened. Likewise, the store’s attorney can ask for your deposition, or call other witnesses or experts for deposition.

A court reporter is hired to swear in the deponent and record the deposition. Attorneys for both sides can ask the deponent questions during the deposition, or object to questions.

Your attorney attends your deposition to help protect you from saying anything harmful to your case. Your attorney will also coach you before the deposition to know what to expect.

Recorded Statements and Settlements

Many slip and fall claims settle before a lawsuit becomes necessary. Your attorney will allow you to give a recorded statement in their presence if your case will likely end with a settlement.

Your attorney can protect you from saying something that will devalue your claim and ensure the adjuster is not asking inappropriate or irrelevant questions.

Providing a Slip and Fall Statement

After you file a slip and fall claim with the appropriate insurance company, they will assign an adjuster to handle your claim. Within a few days, you will receive a call from the adjuster, who will ask for a recorded statement.

Sometimes these statements are made on the spot, and sometimes they are scheduled. Claimants usually give accounts over the phone, but sometimes they can be provided in-person at a convenient location or even your home.

If you decide to give the adjuster a recorded statement, protect yourself. If you are not in the right physical, mental, or emotional state to provide an account, you should politely refuse to do so or request to give one at a different time.

It is not a good time to provide a statement if you are:

  • Upset
  • Confused
  • On certain medications
  • Sleep-deprived
  • In physical pain

If you are nervous or distracted, you may feel rushed and be more vulnerable to the ill-intentions of the insurance adjustor.

Be Cautious with Your Words

Whether you agree to give a statement or not, anything you say to the claims adjuster has the potential to impact your claim.

Decide whether or not to handle your insurance claim without an attorney.  If you’re handing your own claim, decide what to do about your statement.

If you agree to make a verbal, recorded statement, most adjusters allow you to speak freely without any interruptions. The insurance company wants you to explain what took place before, during, and after your slip and fall in your own words.

To decrease the validity of your claim, the adjuster might intentionally ask you leading questions or request explanations.

Examples of tricky questions include: 

  • “It sounds like you were in a hurry when you went into the store.”
  • “So, you weren’t looking where you were going?”
  • “You did realize the walkway was icy, didn’t you?”
  • “The floor appeared wet, right?”

These schemes try to put words in your mouth that will decrease your compensation. Be careful that the adjuster does not manipulate your statements for the benefit of the insurance company.

Stick to the facts when giving recorded statements. Do not:

  • Estimate or guess
  • Complain
  • Talk about anything not directly related to your claim
  • Make any statements about your personal life
  • Say anything or use language that you wouldn’t want a jury to hear

Prepare Yourself

Make a detailed outline of the events leading up to your slip and fall and after the fall. An outline will remind you to mention the critical points and help you stay on track.

Use your accident or injury journal as a reference when building your outline or giving your statement.

If you are not ready when the adjuster calls, politely tell them you need to reschedule.

Example: Statement Outline

Try to include all the essential facts about your accident in the outline. Make the language brief and stick to the points you know. Never guess or speculate. Outline the facts in order.

Before the fall: 

  • I got to the store at about 6:00 p.m.
  • I went through the south entrance and walked through the bakery to the dairy aisle
  • I walked at an average pace and noticed there was no one else in the aisle
  • I did not notice any signs in the aisle

The slip and fall event: 

  • As I approached the milk cooler door, my right foot slid in front of me
  • My body fell backward
  • I put my left hand behind me
  • I landed on my back on top of my hand and wrist
  • The floor felt wet underneath me
  • I noticed a sharp pain in my left wrist, and my fingers felt tingly

After the fall: 

  • A store employee who was walking by approached me and apologized
  • The store’s security camera recorded the incident
  • The manager came and completed an incident report
  • The police and EMTs arrived and took me to the emergency room

Record Your Statement

You have the right to ask the adjuster for a recorded file or a typed transcript of your statement. However, they are not legally obligated to accommodate your request.

You do have the right to record your own statement. Just make sure you tell the adjuster you are recording your statement.

If you have your own recording, you won’t need to remember what you said or how you explained your injuries. Your recording can also keep the adjuster from misquoting what you said in the heat of settlement negotiations.

There are many free apps on both Android and Apple platforms that you can use to record the call on a smartphone. If necessary, use a tape-recorder while on speakerphone.

Consistent answers support your claim. If you decide to file a lawsuit, you can review your recorded statement to ensure you are consistent about the incident and your injuries before giving testimony.

Are You Required to Give a Recorded Statement?

The insurance adjuster might tell you that you must agree to a recorded statement to process your claim or to have it processed quickly. Typically, you are under no obligation to provide a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster.

Since the property or business owner’s insurance company is not in a contract with you, you are not required to give them a recorded verbal statement.

Providing a Written Statement

Instead of providing a recorded statement that puts you on the spot, you usually have the option of submitting a written report. A written statement allows you to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. You can take your time to re-read and edit your statement before submitting it to the insurance company.

Reference your injury file when writing your statement.

Questions an Adjuster May Ask

Knowing what to expect when giving a recorded statement can help you decide if you should agree to one.

Your recorded statement will start with the adjuster saying their name and the date. The adjuster will ask you to state your name, address, and phone number.

Adjusters are required to establish that you are willingly providing a recorded statement about your slip and fall incident and injuries.

Getting your permission on the record: 

  • Are you aware that this statement is being recorded?
  • Do you agree to have this statement recorded?
  • Do I have your permission to record our conversation?

After the above introduction, the adjuster will begin asking you specific questions about your accident.

Questions about the event: 

  • Where did your slip and fall happen?
  • How did the slip and fall happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • Are there any witnesses?
  • What are your injuries?
  • Did anyone call an ambulance?
  • Were you treated at the scene?

Inquiries about your contribution to the fall: 

  • Were you using a cell phone or otherwise distracted when the accident happened?
  • What did you do to avoid slipping or falling?
  • What kind of footwear did you have on at the time of the accident?
  • Did your clothing cause you to trip?
  • Did you notice any signs regarding any dangers or wet floors?
  • Was the area blocked off?
  • Did anyone provide you with a verbal warning about dangers in the area?

Expect the adjuster to ask personal questions: 

  • Did you seek medical care after your slip and fall?
  • Did you use any drugs or alcohol in the 24 hours before your slip and fall?
  • How did you feel immediately before this incident?
  • What is your occupation?
  • What is your income?
  • How are you feeling now?
  • Do you have any chronic conditions or old injuries?

Don’t be surprised if the adjuster asks the same question more than once, with slightly different wording. The adjuster wants nothing better than to catch you contradicting yourself.

Once the claims adjuster finishes asking questions, they might give you the chance to add anything else you want to say. If there are any important details you did not have the opportunity to discuss, now is your time. But be careful to stick to the facts of your case and don’t complain or list your frustrations.

The adjuster will end the recording by asking you if what you said in your statement is factual and truthful to the best of your knowledge.

When You Want Legal Advice

Claims for serious injuries should always be handled by an attorney to maximize your compensation.

Even when you’ve recovered from relatively minor injuries, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney before you agree to give a recorded statement. Most personal injury attorneys provide a free initial consultation, so you can talk to an experienced attorney free of charge.

If you decide to hire an attorney, you won’t have to worry about a recorded statement or any other communication with the insurance company. Since most attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, your attorney won’t get paid unless they settle your claim or win your injury case in court.

Don’t wait until the claims adjuster calls to make a split decision about a recorded statement. Be prepared to protect your right to injury compensation.

Dustin Reichard, Esq. is an experienced attorney with 20 years of work in the legal field. He’s admitted to the Illinois State Bar and the Washington State Bar. Dustin has worked in the areas of medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, slip and falls, and general liability. Dustin began his legal career as a JAG... Read More >>