It’s a situation we see all the time, you, or your family member, get hurt in a car crash and the insurance company for the at-fault driver calls you and wants you to give a recorded statement. They seem nice, and you want to speed the process along so you can get your car fixed. What should you do?
The safest bet is to talk with an experienced personal injury attorney before giving a recorded statement to the at-fault insurance company. The reason for this is because the goal of the insurance company is to pay you as little as possible for damages that are caused by the wrongful actions of their insured driver. It’s simple economics, the less money the insurance company pays out in claims, the bigger their profits are at the end of the year.
With that in mind, the insurance adjuster will often try to sound friendly and reasonable when they first speak to you on the phone. After all, the more comfortable you feel talking with them, the more likely you are to let your guard down. You should always remember that regardless of how friendly they appear to be, their goal is to find a reason to deny your claim or reduce the amount they pay for your damages.
A common tactic insurance adjusters use in recorded statements, is that they will try and manipulate you into saying things that can hurt your case. There are many ways that this can happen. Sometimes they will ask a question that is worded in a specific way that is pre-designed to encourage an answer that can be used against you. Other times, they may ask you a loaded question for which there simply isn’t a good answer. Another problem area is bad guesses. If they ask a question and you are not sure about the answer, it’s better to say that. If you’re not sure about the answer to a question and you give a bad “guesstimate” as your answer to that question, you can hurt your case. Also, If your answer to a question is vaguely worded, they may try to twist your words and misrepresent what you said.Their focus in a recorded statement is typically on 2 areas: fault and damages.
When they are asking you about how the accident happened, their goal is to find a reason to shift some, or all, of the fault of the accident onto your shoulders. If they succeed, you will be stuck with some, or all, of the bills. Frequently they will ask you where your attention was immediately before the accident, or how fast you were driving, or whether you took evasive maneuvers, or how far your vehicle was from the other vehicle when you applied your brakes, etc. Bad “guesstimates” and vaguely worded answers to these questions can give the insurance company an excuse to stick you with the bills.
When they ask you about your injuries or other damages, their goal is often to find a basis for arguing that your injuries were pre-existing and were actually not caused by the accident. It does not matter how honest you are, it does not matter how good of a person you are, they will try to create the basis for a narrative that you are dishonest and exaggerating. Frequently, they will ask you how badly you were injured, or if you plan on getting further medical treatment, or if you ever had pain in that body part before, etc. These questions are problematic because they are asking you to predict the future, or give a medical diagnosis/prognosis, none of which you are qualified to give. For example, if you say, “I’m sore, but I will be fine,” then you heal up and get back to normal, no big deal, right? But what if you get worse? Or what if you don’t get back to normal? The insurance company will try to use that optimistic “I will be fine,” statement to imply you are trying to be deceptive and greedy.
At the Beard Law Firm, our attorneys give you an idea of the types of questions to watch out for and we sit in on the recorded statement with you. If we see the insurance adjuster trying to play any games or twist your words during the recording, we step in and expose their tactics during the recording and turn the tables on them. We also require a transcript of the recorded statement as a pre-condition to participation.
You might think that this approach is not necessary in your case because it is clear that the other driver was at fault. Over the years, the Beard Law Firm has seen countless car crash cases where liability was clear, but the unscrupulous insurance adjuster takes an unreasonable position based on a misinterpreted statement from a recording that they took before the Beard Law Firm was hired. Usually, the Beard Law Firm can force the insurance company to back away from an unreasonable position, but the delay can often be economically painful for the injured person who needs his or her totaled car replaced or cannot afford to get stuck with the medical bills from their treatment. If you have any questions, give the Beard Law Firm a call.