If you’ve ever been in a car crash, you’ve probably talked on the phone or in person shortly after the collision with an adjuster from your insurance company or the other vehicle’s insurance company. It’s a confusing time, often with police and ambulances and many other concerns in addition to your car insurance.
But if you have been in a crash, you’ll have to deal with insurance adjusters. They usually appear to be nice people, soothing and sympathetic. They are trying to make you think they are Here To Help You. They reassure you that they are recording your statement about the crash to get your version of events right away, and they’ll process your claim faster this way.
But before you get swept up in the frantic moments after a crash, remember this about insurance adjusters: They’re not your friends. They are doing their job, and that’s to save the insurance company as much money as possible on your crash.
Here are some great points to remember about insurance adjusters and recorded victim statements:
- Most crash victims just want to do the right thing and honestly record what happened in their crash when meeting with an insurance adjuster. But when the recorder is running, many crash victims misstate the facts, ramble, and make incorrect assumptions that will hurt them in the long run.
- They are recording your statement in hopes that once you get talking, you’ll make a mistake they can use later against you in a trial, deny your claim or pay you less money.
- Most people are not prepared to be questioned by a trained investigator, so it’s best to decline the adjuster’s request for a recorded interview or statement. Once that red light is on on the recorder, you will forget things, or remember something incorrectly, or misspeak in some other way. It happens to everyone in a high-pressure situation. Of course, the adjuster will make it sound like a rejection makes you act like you have something to hide. Don’t fall for that line. Just politely decline and end the discussion. Get a lawyer and be prepared professionally for your statement.
- If you want to talk to the adjuster, ask to schedule a follow-up call for the statement and take time to read the police report, revisit the crash scene, review the damage to your car, and read any medical records you can obtain. Call witnesses and review the evidence carefully. Finally, be sure to review your insurance policy.
Set some rules for yourself for the meeting with the adjuster:
- Request that the adjuster take notes and not record your meeting, unless your insurance carrier required it in your contract.
- Be honest but brief.
- Focus on each question, briefly answer it, and don’t ramble.
- Do not volunteer information.
- Only explain when asked to do so, and do it briefly.
- If you don’t understand a question, don’t answer it.
- When it comes to distances and amounts and speeds and items like that, don’t guess or make assumptions.
- You can’t remember everything. If you’re not sure about something, say you are unsure.
- Don’t be bullied into answering questions.
- No absolute words like “never” and “always”.
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Never guess. If your answer is a guess, say you can’t answer the question.
- Ask for a transcribed copy of your recorded statement and review it for accuracy.
- Memories of collisions get jumbled. Don’t easily admit wrongdoing if you do not believe you were at fault.
- Bring a witness when you speak to the adjuster.
- Take notes of questions asked of you by the adjuster.
- Do not sign anything unless an attorney on your behalf has reviewed it.
If you’re a crash victim and you’re concerned about dealing with insurance companies, contact the Ziff Law Firm to see how we can help you by calling (607) 733-8866 or emailing [email protected].
Be well and drive safely,
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
Many thanks to the lawyers at the Hepworth Holzer law firm in Boise, Idaho, who contributed to these tips.