Stephen Hasner | Car Accidents | October 30, 2018
When you’re seriously injured in an auto accident, for a short period of time you become the focus of attention. Police officers, doctors, auto repair shops, car rental companies … everyone wants to hear your story. The police get your input at the scene; everyone else hopefully waits until you’re on your feet and ready to talk. One exception, however, is often the other driver’s insurance adjuster. The insurance company wants your statement ASAP. That doesn’t mean you should give it to them.
Insurance adjusters will be sure to track you down, whether by phone, mail, or a surprise in-person visit. They may visit you while recuperating in the hospital or knock on your door at home unannounced. Adjusters also talk to witnesses and obtain police reports. They photograph and diagram the accident scene and canvas the area for additional witnesses. Some claim investigators ask your neighbors questions about you and conduct social media investigations to figure out what you’ve been telling your friends.
Still, your statement is one of the most critical elements of their investigation. They won’t stop asking until you either give a statement, or hand them your personal injury attorney’s phone number.
Insurance Adjusters Need to Talk to You
The other party’s insurance company needs your statement. That doesn’t mean you should answer the phone when they call or open the door when their representatives knock. Your statement is a key part of their decision-making process, especially if liability is in question; insurance companies have a vested interest in obtaining a statement that reduces their liability and maximizes yours. Even so, as an insurance policy is a good faith contract, adjusters must begin an investigation with the expectation that their insured is telling the truth. Unless the facts are clearly in your favor, when judging fault, adjusters rely more on police reports, witnesses, and their insured’s version of events.
Adjusters often hold to their insured’s account unless they find evidence to dispute it. They need your statement to complete their investigation and make a decision to pay or not to pay, and if so, how much.
Never Give Your Statement to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company Without First Speaking With an Attorney
It’s an insurance adjuster’s job to get your statement as soon as possible after an accident. You may believe that if you comply with his request, the company will agree to pay your claim. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t work out that way. When its insured’s version is vastly different from your own, a wide credibility gap exists that your statement isn’t likely to fill. Even after taking your statement, the insurance company may simply stick with its insured’s version anyway. That’s just one of the reasons why you should never give the adjuster your statement without first seeking legal counsel. Here are a few additional issues to consider.
Some Adjusters Use Deceptive Tactics to Get Your Statement
Adjusters may call it a recorded interview, or say they want to just ask you a few questions. Whatever they call it, you should understand that what you say is your statement. They’ll refer back to your words for months or years or until your case is closed. They’ll remind you of what you said when they negotiate an informal settlement or use your own words against you if you’re deposed during future litigation.
You Should Never Answer Questions While You’re on Medication
If you’ve been seriously injured, you’re likely taking several medications during the early post-accident days, or are otherwise impaired from the stress of recovery. Some medications slow you down, impair memories, or make it difficult to understand the questions being asked. Your answers to the adjuster’s questions could be inaccurate, contradictory, or completely different from your unmedicated responses. An adjuster should take that into account, and wait until you’re not on medication; unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Some adjusters will seize the opportunity if you allow it, making it doubly important to speak only through your attorney.
You May Sabotage Your Own Case
When adjusters ask questions, they’re often looking for answers to liability issues you can’t anticipate. They ask the same questions several times, phrasing them differently each time while looking for self-incriminating responses. When you’re recovering from an accident, you may not have the presence of mind to understand the subtle differences. When you’re medicated, your responses may be confusing, contradictory, and self-sabotaging. Face-to-face answers may sound very different when interpreted out-of-context later.
Your Handwritten Statement May Be Admissible in Court
Adjusters use your recorded statement to dispute your version, but they’re rarely able to present statement transcripts as formal court evidence. That’s why a few adjusters prefer old-fashioned handwritten statements. The adjuster asks questions and writes your version as a narrative. The written statement includes an attestation clause at the end saying you read and understand it and agree that it’s your true version.
In our high-tech world, handwritten statements can seem like a rare, harmless novelty. Unfortunately, when you sign a written statement, you essentially approve of what the adjuster wrote. If you refuse to sign, the adjuster may request that you write out I refuse to sign and ask you to add your name under that. This process is somewhat deceptive and a classic example of why you should never give a statement without counsel, especially if you’re on medication.
Contact Hasner Law PC to Speak with An Experienced Savannah Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you’re injured in an accident in the Savannah, Georgia area, it would be wise to connect with a legal representative before the adjuster knocks on your door. Our attorneys work closely with clients to determine the best way to address an accident and ensure our client’s version of events is presented in an accurate and effective way that doesn’t jeopardize their case.