So you have been in a car accident and the other driver’s insurance company is on the phone asking you to make a recorded statement. There is only one acceptable answer here: NO!!!! You have the right to remain silent, and anything you say can and will be used against you! This does not only apply to criminal situations.
One of the first questions I ask a client during an intake interview is “Did you give a recorded statement?” Unfortunately, the answer is too often a reluctant yes. What I find most interesting is that most of the people who say the did, also then immediately say “I know I shouldn’t have, but I did.” On a basic level, why would you do something that you know you probably shouldn’t do? The reason is because unless you have an attorney looking out for your interests and explaining the injury process and your rights, people feel like the insurance company holds all the cards and that if they don’t give the statement they aren’t going to get anything.
Please note, that there are almost always 2 insurance companies involved, yours and the other driver’s insurance, who we will call the liability carrier. With regard to your insurance, it may be part of your insurance policy (which at the basic level is a contract) that you have to give them a recorded statement if you make a claim. But, they (normally) aren’t trying to work against your interests. It is often hard to avoid giving a recorded statement to your own insurance. But, you don’t have any obligation to the other driver’s insurance company. They have absolutely no power or leverage to make you give a recorded statement. However, they won’t tell you that you can say no. They simply state that they are going to need you to make a recorded statement. Unless you know that you have the right to say no, most people say “ok.”
The reality of the situation is, you actually do not have to talk to the other person’s insurance company at all. Sure, it makes sense to be cordial and professional with them, and give them enough information to process the claim, but then the question becomes… “how much information is enough and how much is too much?” The insurance company isn’t going to tell you, because they want to know everything, even things that aren’t relevant. Why? Because if you tell them something that, even if it isn’t relevant, could harm your case, they want to know so they can use it against you, either by making you look less credible in court, or just by using it as leverage to offer you less money.
As an injury attorney, when I talk to the liability carrier, one of the first things they will ask me, assuming my client has not already given them a statement, is whether I will consent to them taking a recorded statement. This is an important thing to note, they ask if I will consent. They need my permission. Why? Because they can’t make you. What I like to do, because I know that they will not agree, is to say “If you agree to let me record a statement from your client, I will agree to let you record a statement from mine.” NEVER has anyone said “OK.” Why? Because they don’t want their client on record talking about the accident. But that doesn’t stop them from trying to get you on record talking about the accident. Seems a little unfair, right?
What usually happens is that I agree to let them speak with my client, on a conference call with me on the phone, to get basic information about the accident, but I refuse to allow the call to be recorded. This allows me to limit the questions that they ask and, quite frankly, to cut my client off when they start giving out too much information.
What kind of information are they looking for, you might ask? Well, all the information they really need is going to be on a police report. Your name, address, date of birth, type of car you were driving, where the accident happened, and whether you were injured. They may also ask for your social security number to verify if you have Medicare or Medicaid. Other than that basic info, they don’t need anything to start processing a claim.
What they are trying to get you to say, on the record, are things that may be used against you later on. Things like where you were coming from, were you running late for work, were you on your cell phone, had you been having back pain the week before, did you take your eyes off the road to get something from your purse or backpack, did you have any surgeries in the past 5 years? Note, none of these things are relevant as to whether an accident happened or if you needed medical care following the accident. But, some of these answers could be used to show that you were partially or totally responsible for the accident. They could show that the medical treatment you received could be related to something that happened prior to the accident.
Now, don’t get me wrong, all of this information could or would come out eventually if your case had to go to trial because it couldn’t be settled. And, I am not advocating that you lie to an adjuster or hide the truth. All I am saying is that there are things that the insurance company does not need to know to process the claim at the beginning stages, which could prejudice your ability to recover anything.
Your injury attorney, if they are doing their job, will protect your interests in dealing with the liability insurance carrier. They should set up a mutually convenient time for you, them, and the insurance company to talk on the phone. They should talk to you before the phone call to explain what to expect, what types of questions will be asked, and how to limit your answers to just the necessary information.
Remember, the insurance company is a business. They are there to make a profit and to protect their insured customers. If they can get you to provide them with information that allows them to pay you less money, or no money at all, they are doing their job. You should talk to an injury attorney who can protect your interests before you talk to the insurance company so that you are able to recover what you are reasonably entitled to as an accident victim.
As one popular saying goes, the insurance companies have powerful attorneys working for them, you should have a powerful attorney working for you as well.
Call my office at 410-828-8512 for a free accident consultation now.