Why Insurance Adjusters Take Recorded Statements
No matter who is calling you to get a recorded statement, that person is trying to find out more about your how the collision occurred, the extent of damage to your car, your injuries, or all of the above. Why a certain adjuster is taking a statement often depends on who that adjuster is. Let's start with your insurance company.
Your Insurance Adjuster
If you are an Oregon insured driver, and you are injured in an auto collision, you have a no-fault insurance coverage on your policy called "Personal Injury Protection," also known as "PIP." This coverage provides medical, disability, domestic services, and child care benefits, depending on the severity of your injuries. If you are insured in the State of Washington, you may have this coverage. This is because Oregon requires the coverage, but Washington does not. So should you talk to your own adjuster?
The short answer is yes. This is because your auto policy is an agreement, and part of that agreement is that you will cooperate with your insurance company so that it can process your claim for personal injury protection benefits. Here are a few reasons why your insurance company may want to speak with you:
- Your insurance company and you are in the same legal "boat." That is, you are both suffering 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, lost income benefits, and possibly more. Your insurance company has a right to seek reimbursement from the insurer of the at fault driver that caused your injury, but it must show that the other driver is the cause of your injuries. To do that, it must investigate the collision, and sometimes that means talking with you.
- Your insurance company must pay medical benefits for accident related injuries. It may want to find out if you have suffered serious injuries in the past that may be the cause of your need for treatment. 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.
Keep in mind 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 you are injured by a motorist who has no insurance coverage, or a motorist that has insurance coverage, but it is insufficient to compensate you for all your losses. In these situations, your insurance company is jumping into the shoes of the insurance company for the uninsured or underinsured motorist. The policy still calls for reasonable cooperation, so you will have to give a statement. The stakes here will be higher, because now your insurance company and you are across the legal fence from each other. Read on to find out our four basic rules about giving statements when you have to.
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 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.
When it comes to your injury claim, you must assume that giving a statement will almost never help your case. These cases are often made up of several layers of statements. First, there is the police report, if there is one, with your statement. Then, when you go to the doctor or hospital, there are statements you make to the doctor. An adjuster is going to be looking at those statements for sure. Then, if you file your case in court, there is a deposition, which is sworn testimony. So, do you think you are going to 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 some 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.
So, if you can at all help it, you should avoid giving a taped statement to the liability carrier, especially if there is a police report that will teach the adjuster what happened, and who is at fault. The truth is that 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 Give a Statement
We have, in some cases, agreed to make our client available for a statement, because we felt it was the best thing for our client under the circumstances. However, before giving a statement, we educate our client before the statement so that they can provide an honest and accurate response to all the questions posed. So, here are the four "rules" we will 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 almost thirty years of lawyering, 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 everyday. Some people, when nervous, get very chatty. The problem is that you are going to be on the phone a lot longer than you need to, and your answers may be confusing. Just answer the question that is being asked, and the adjuster will move on to the next inquiry.
Rule 3: Don't Guess
This is the most often violated rule. People are wanting 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, make sure you tell the adjuster you are not sure. If you can give an estimate, give an estimate. If you honestly 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 your are violating Rule No. 1 (tell the truth) when you are not.
Rule No. 4: Take Your Time
This is actually a couple of 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.
Questions? Give Us a Call
If you have a serious injury claim, and you are not sure about who you should talk to, contact us. The least we can do is get you oriented so you know where to stand, and if your case is the kind we handle, we are happy to help you through the process.