You’ve recently been in a crash and need to talk to your auto insurance company. You tell the insurance agent or adjuster what happened. Then they ask you to give a statement about the accident that will be recorded for legal purposes.
Do you give a recorded statement? Should you not?
Here’s what we, a personal injury law firm that constantly interacts with insurance adjusters, recommend that you do when reporting a wreck to the insurance company.
What Is a Recorded Statement?
A recorded statement for an insurance claim is used by the insurance company to better understand what happened in the accident to determine how much coverage needs to be applied.
Why does the insurance company want a recorded statement? The statement that you provide will be transcribed and written down as fact, which can be used later against you if you are not careful.
The insurance adjuster speaking with you may be warm and pleasant or cold and formal. To them, you are just another name and number in a file they need to process as quickly as possible.
The adjuster may try to trap you with vague or specific questions that you don’t have definitive answers for to make you sound uncertain and therefore cast your claim as unreliable. The insurance companies craft these questions to get you to include information you are not legally obligated to disclose at that time (such as medications you take or past medical history).
Do You Have to Give a Recorded Statement?
Nearly every personal injury attorney will agree that giving a recorded statement is not in your best interest.
If your injury claim is against another person’s insurance company, you don’t have to submit a recorded statement. If the claim is with your own insurance, there will likely be a clause in your policy requiring that you cooperate with the investigation into your claim. Turning to your own insurance may happen if the driver who hit you has the same insurance, is uninsured, or fled the scene of the wreck. Should this be the case, you may have no choice but to cooperate and give a recorded statement.
Even if you weren’t found at fault for the accident or feel like you have nothing to hide, you need to be careful. The insurance company could use your recorded statement against you in a variety of ways to undermine your claim:
- Inconsistent Story: Everything you say in the recorded statement will be compared to what you told law enforcement at the scene and witness statements. The insurance company will go after any inconsistencies between what you said at the scene of the wreck and what you tell them later.
- Downplaying the Severity of Your Injuries: The insurance company may ask where you feel pain or what part of your body was injured in the crash. The way you answer these questions may be used against you later on (i.e., forgetting an injury, saying you felt fine after the wreck, etc.).
- Too Much Information: Even though the claims adjuster may sound friendly and helpful, they are paid and directed to resolve your claim for the lowest amount possible. They will try to get you to divulge information about prior injuries and other activities to discredit and devalue your claim.
If the insurance adjuster insists that they require a recorded statement before proceeding to the next part of the conversation, politely end the call there and contact an attorney. Let them determine if you need to provide a statement and what the terms of the recorded statement will be.
When Talking to Your Insurance Agent...
Contact your insurance company as soon as you are able after an accident, regardless of whether you plan to file a personal injury, diminished value, other any other type of claim with them. Notifying the insurance company is part of your agreement with them.
Telling the insurance company about the accident right away means that they can’t argue later on that you delayed telling them because the crash wasn’t that serious. Putting your insurance company on alert also protects you in case the at-fault driver’s insurance information turns out to be false or nonexistent. If you wait to notify your insurance company, you could be putting your coverage in jeopardy.
Document the names and phone numbers of everyone that you speak with at the insurance company in case you need to contact them again or refer back to what they told you.
Your insurance company may require a recorded statement. Most insurance contracts require that you cooperate fully with their investigation of the claim, including providing a recorded interview. However, if you are injured, it is highly recommended you have an attorney present or on the phone with you during this recorded statement.
When Talking to the At-Fault Party’s Insurance Company...
Have your attorney notify the other party’s insurance company about the wreck. If you do not have an attorney, you must notify them yourself.
Within days of filing a claim, expect an insurance adjuster to call you. Give them the basics about what happened in the wreck. Do not consent to give a recorded statement until you speak with a car accident lawyer about your case.
If you were hurt in the wreck, you can disclose this to the insurance company. Avoid going into detail as you do not know the full extent of your injuries and medical bills yet. It is also important to let them know the location of your vehicle so they can send a property damage appraiser to look at it to assess the repair costs.
Do not sign anything until you have had an attorney review it. This includes any property damage releases or requests to access your medical records. Your lawyer can provide them with all of the relevant medical records once you have completed treatment.
During a Recorded Statement, Watch What You Say
After you file a car accident claim, the adjuster will call you. If you agree to provide a statement, the adjuster will usually let you speak without interruption to get your side of the event.
Once you tell them what happened, they will start asking questions designed to catch inconsistencies in your story. Beware of leading or clarifying statements such as “It sounds like you were a little distracted” or “Thank goodness your injury didn’t turn out as bad as you thought.”
It is important to stick to the facts. Don’t rant or complain as this may weaken your claim. Avoid revealing things about your personal life. Doing so could give the adjuster ammunition to claim you were distracted by your problems, which caused the accident, or that you’re desperate for a quick settlement because you need the money now.
Prepare Your Statement Ahead of Time
If you give a recorded statement, prepare an outline beforehand with the facts of your claim. Once you give a statement, you can’t undo it, revise it, or take it back. Anything you have said is now part of your claim. Should the adjuster ask you to give a statement before you’re ready, say you’re busy and would like to reschedule.
Review the details leading up to the crash, the crash itself, and how the incident has affected your life. Keep everything in chronological order to make it easier to reference and remember.
Contact Our Experienced Georgia Car Accident Lawyers
If you’ve been injured in a car accident and the insurance company is pressuring you to provide a recorded statement, contact Gary Martin Hays & Associates.
We are available to protect your rights and recover the maximum compensation you deserve. Call our Atlanta personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation.