If you are in a automobile accident in Idaho, you will quickly learn how insurance company adjusters will pressure you to give a recorded statement. Often they just act like its the normal thing and the injured person who refuses is somehow a bad guy. That’s just one of many techniques they use.
The adjuster is not your friend. No matter how nice or reasonable they seem. They work for and try to protect the insurance company. Giving a statement is often a mistake. Why do I say this? I can’t count the number of times that a tape recorded statement a client has given the insurance adjuster shortly after the collision and before they retained me has come back to cause problems.
It is almost always because the client was trying to be a good person and thought they were in good hands with some good neighbor insurance company. They don;’t realize what they are doing to themselves because they don’t understand what the insurance company wants to do to them. Most people start off thinking that just being fair and honest will carry the day. As part of their definition of fairness and honesty they think by talking lots and telling everything the can think of will cause the insurance company to “see the light” and their claim will miraculously get settled for a fair amount. That’s because many people believe that honesty is somehow missing from the system. They figure if they are just honest they will be treated fairly.
That’s not true. Just think about it for a second. In most accidents a police report will be filed and the insurance company has easy access to this report. In fact, Idaho law gives them the right to get the police report. They can also just as easily take notes as they talk to you, they do not need to record you. they all have computers with places to input the notes of a conversation. So why is a recorded statement necessary? Its not. Its just a policy companies have put in place to see if there’s any information the accident YOU might reveal which could be later used to either deny the claim or pay out less money when settlement occurs. They can use a recorded statement against you in a trial should one happen in your case. That is why they do it–to try and take advantage of injured people.
My best advice, and any experienced personal injury lawyer’s best advice, is do not allow an adjuster to take a recorded statement. Most people are not used to dealing with the pressure of answering questions for a recording. We tend to tense up. We say things wrong. We forget things. We answer questions incompletely or misunderstand the question asked. And the information is just not as precise or accurate as it is in a a roundabout way or incompletely, and none of the information comes through in a precise and thoughtful a manner as it would be if you wrote out your answers and took the time to make sure the answers were exactly right.
People often think it may appear dishonest to not give a statement. Adjusters are taught to make you feel that way. Honesty has nothing to do with declining the adjuster’s request (demand) that you give a statement until you are represented and have an opportunity to be prepared by a lawyer to do it in a way that doesn’t prejudice your claim. Among the other problems are that people use words in everyday conversation that have a completely different meaning in a legal setting.
Of course thousands of people give statements to adjusters all the time. So the best PRACTICAL ADVICE I can give is call a lawyer before you give a statement to make sure its really what you choose to do.
Next, if you choose to give a statement you need to prepare yourself.
In lawsuits, clients are subject to a sworn statement called a deposition. We spend hours making sure the clients story comes out truthfully and they dont allow their answers to be twisted by the bad guy layer. The stakes are the same when you give a statement to an insurance adjuster Make sure you
understand the process and are prepared before you give the statement. The insurance adjuster takes statements on a regular basis. They have been trained on how to do it. This is, for most people, the only statement they will ever give.
If you choose to give a statement here are some tips to give your statement in the safest way possible:
First, I’ll say it again Prepare yourself. Don’t give the adjuster a statement as soon as it is requested. The adjuster will be ready for the statement and have a game plan. You won’t. Schedule a follow-up call for the statement. Using the time to prepare for the statement. This means review the police report, look at the scene of the crash, look at pictures of the damage to your car, and review any initial medical records you can get. If there are witnesses, call them. If there are other pieces of important evidence, check them out. Review means study and think about the evidence and the details.
After you prepare yourself:
- Request that the statement be “unrecorded”. Ask the adjuster to just take notes instead of record the statement. Again, there is no rule or law requiring you to submit to any type of statement (except to your own insurance carrier if it is required by the written contract)
- Your goal is NOT to get the whole story of everything you studied onto the recording. Your goal is to answer any questions truthfully and briefly.
- Answer the question asked and do not just ramble on
- Do not volunteer information not asked about.
- Do not explain unless asked to, then do so briefly.
- Do not answer questions that you don’t understand,
- Do not GUESS and DO NOT ASSUME answers– This is particularly true for anything to do with number like dates, times, distances, amounts, speeds, etc.
- Don’t feel like you have to know or remember things- tell the adjuster if you are unsure
- Don’t let the adjuster bully you into an answer
- If you can’t estimate, don’t.
- Do not use words that have an absolute meaning, such as “never” and “always”.
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Don’t guess–Just tell them you cant answer because you would have to guess.
- ALWAYS ask for a copy of your recorded statement. Sometimes when the insurance company transcribes the recording, they will mistype something. You want to be able to review the statement for accuracy.
- Do not admit you did anything wrong. Very often people’s memories of a collision are jumbled up from what really happened.
- Have a witness present when you are speaking with the adjuster
- Take notes as to what is being asked and said
- Do not sign anything unless a qualified attorney has reviewed it.
We help people all over Southern Idaho. Call us if you have any questions about an insurance statement or anything else about your injury claim. The initial consultation is always free.