Should I give a recorded statement for my Oregon/Washington injury claim?

Why Insurance Adjusters Take Recorded Statements

After an auto collision, any adjuster that contacts you for a recorded statement wants to know about the collision and your.  The topic of discussion depends on the adjuster involved, so let's go through the roster of adjusters to learn what they are looking for, and whether you actually need to talk.

Your Insurance Adjuster

If you are an Oregon insured driver injured in an auto collision, you have a no-fault insurance coverage on your policy called "Personal Injury Protection," also known as "PIP." PIP coverage provides medical, disability, domestic services, and child care benefits, depending on the severity of your injuries.  If you are insured in Washington, PIP is an optional coverage.

Should you give a recorded statement to your PIP adjuster?

The short answer is yes.  This is because your auto policy is an agreement, and part of that agreement requires you to cooperate with your insurance company so that it can process your personal injury protection benefits claim.  Here are a few reasons your insurance company often takes a recorded statement:

  • Your insurance company and you are in the same legal "boat," at least at the beginning. You have both suffered a loss.  Your loss is more serious because it involves your health, and could be life changing.  Your insurance company is suffering a business loss because it is paying your medical expenses, and sometimes disability benefits because of someone else's careless behavior.  Your insurance company can seek reimbursement from the at fault driver's insurance carrier for the benefits it paid to you or your doctors.  But, like you, your insurer must prove that the other driver was at fault, and the careless behavior caused the need for medical care and disability you suffered.
  • Your insurance company must pay medical benefits for accident related injuries.  It may want to find out your medical history to make sure that the medical care you are seeking is accident related, and not due to some other medical problem you may have already been dealing with.  Again, you must reasonably cooperate with your insurance carrier, and if you intentionally withhold information about past medical issues or injuries, it could risk your access medical benefits, and it could destroy any chance of making a successful claim against the other driver's insurance company.

Remember that your insurance company's right to take a statement does not mean it can harass you or abuse the process.  If you feel that a question is completely out of order, you can politely refuse to answer the question, or ask how the question is relevant to the claim.  Many insurance adjusters will back down when they know that you know they are crossing the line.

Your insurance company may also have to process a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits.  This claim arises when the other driver who injured you has no insurance at all, or not enough to cover all the harms you suffered.  In these situations, your insurance company is jumping into the shoes of the insurance company for the uninsured or underinsured driver.  The policy still calls for reasonable cooperation, so as the insurance contract probably says, you must give a statement.  This gets more complicated because now your insurance company and you are across the legal fence from each other.

The Other Insurance Adjuster

Unlike your own insurance company, the other insurance company is in a "legally adverse" position to you.  What does that mean?  It means they are on the other side of the lega fence.  Their interests and your interests are at odds.  You want to be fully compensated for your losses, and they want to pay you as little as possible.

You must assume that giving a statement to the other driver's insurance adjuster will almost never help your case.  A big part of the Oregon auto injury case is what you say to people along the way, including the police, your doctors, and an insurance adjuster taking a statement.  At one point, the adjuster or the attorney for insurer will look long and hard at all the statements you made along the way, and look for inconsistent stories.  It could be something you say about your symptoms or how the injury is affecting your activities.

So, do you will remember exactly what you said to some adjuster days after your collision, and be able to recite that exactly at deposition?   Probably not.  Insurance companies and their attorneys will try to make you look like you are changing your story, when in fact you just don't remember an event that happened several months ago.

This is just one example of how an insurance adjuster may try to hurt your auto injury claim.  It rarely makes sense to give a taped statement to the liability carrier, especially if a police report that tells the adjuster what happened, and who is at fault.  Liability adjusters are trained to get you make statements that can be later used against you.  Does this happen all the time?  No, it does not, but it happens enough for me to say don't do it.

Here is the exception to the general rule.  You want to get your car fixed or replaced, and if the other driver's insurance company is willing to repair or replace your vehicle, you will have to communicate with them at some point.  We are usually not involved in this stage of the claim.  However, if you find yourself dealing with the property damage, you are usually talking with a different adjuster, and there is nothing wrong with limiting your discussion to getting the car fixed or replaced.

If You Do Give a Statement

We have agreed to make our client available for a statement because we decided it was the best thing for our client under the circumstances.  However, before giving a statement, we prepare our client so they can give an honest and accurate response to all the questions posed.  So, here are the four "rules" we always cover when preparing our client for a statement.

Rule No 1:  Be Honest

We do not spend much time on this, except to say that if you violate this rule, you are killing your case and losing your lawyer.  After several years working as an attorney, I can still say that most people are honest, and this is almost never an issue.

Rule No. 2:  Answer the Question

It sounds simple, but people are often nervous when giving a statement, and rightfully so.  It is not something you do every day.  Some people talk a lot when they are nervous.  If you talk too much, the statement will take lot longer than it should, and your answers may be confusing.  Just answer the question that is asked, and nothing more.  If the adjuster wants more information on the topic, they will ask you.

Rule 3:  Don't Guess

This is the most often violated rule.  Most people want to help, and when giving a statement, sometimes feel they are being tested.  This is not a quiz.  You are only responsible for what you actually know and remember.  If you are not sure, tell the adjuster you are not sure.  If you can give an estimate, give an estimate. If you do not remember, then that is the right answer.  Do not give an answer just because you can.  The big problem with guessing your answer is that you may guess incorrectly, and it could be made to look like you are violating Rule No. 1 (tell the truth) when you are not.

Rule No. 4:  Take Your Time

This is actually two rules.  Taking your time means listening to the whole question before your answer it, making sure you understand the question, and if you do, taking the time that you need to give a responsive answer.  If you are not sure about the question, ask the adjuster to rephrase the question.  Then, once you know the question, there is nothing wrong with taking the time you need to think about and provide your answer.

One more thing:

Many of our clients have already given a statement when they come in to see us for the first time, and it's usually not a big deal.  If there is a mistake, or misunderstanding, we can address it.  But, there are cases where a mistake filled statement makes it hard for us to help our client.  So, we hope this article helps you.

What Will The Adjuster Ask?

The adjuster will ask about how the collision or injury occurred, and your injuries and medical care.

Some adjusters will want your Social Security number, claiming that they need to report your claim to Medicare to make sure Medicare is not paying accident related expenses.  We do not believe that insurers must do this.

Insurance companies like to run your Social Security number through claims index data base to see if you have filed other claims in the past.  The insurer may go deeper with background checks.  We do not give out Social Security numbers.

Questions?  Contact Us.

If you have a serious injury claim, and you are not sure about who you should talk to, contact us.  We can help you know where to stand, and if your case is the kind we handle, we can work with you to get the best possible result.

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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Top-rated Personal Injury Lawyer Helping Oregon and Washington Families