You were just injured in an automobile collision, and within hours the insurance company for the other party calls and wishes to speak with you. What should you do?
Every situation is unique. However, these are some guidelines to help you decide what you should do.
1. Be skeptical. While the adjustors appear friendly and nice, this is done to reduce your level of suspicion. The goal of the adjustor is to decrease the amount of money paid out, and their demands to speak with you immediately are designed to hurt your claims. As the Miranda warning specifies: “you have the right to remain silent . . . anything you say can and will be used against you.” Of course Miranda applies to criminal law, but the principal remains true.
2. Wait to speak to the adjustor until a few days after the collision. Why?
- First, it gives you some time to think about the collision. It is well established that memories about an event immediately afterwards can be unreliable and are likely to be manipulated by the questioner. (See generally, Stanford Journal of Legal Studies The Problem With Eyewitness Testimony A Commentary On A Talk By George Fisher And Barbara Tversky (1999).) The adjustors know this and wish to manipulate your testimony. Time will allow you to be prepared for the questions and your statements will be less influenced by the adjustor’s questions.
- Second, it will allow you time to speak with an attorney. If someone was seriously injured, you should speak with an attorney prior to any discussion with the adjustor. Most attorneys, including the attorneys at KGW, will speak with you free of charge. However, you should actually speak with an attorney, not just the receptionist or a paralegal. (See generally, how to select a law firm).
3. Be prepared to respond to the question about the recording of the statement. As a general rule, if it’s your insurance company, your policy most likely requires you to cooperate and even permit a recorded statement. If you refuse your insurance company has the right to deny your claim. If it’s the other party’s insurance company asking for the recorded statement and the request is made prior to a lawsuit being filed, you have the option of declining to have the discussion recorded.
4. Review the details of the collision prior to the call and be prepared to answer questions about the causes of the collision. It is ideal to have a copy of the police report, and review it prior to the collision. Be prepared to answer questions concerning the causes of the incident, your rate of speed at the time of the collision, the posted speed, and what type of vehicles everyone drove. They will also ask for the identification of all witnesses, including passengers. You must also be prepared to answer questions such as “What could you have you done to avoid the collision?” and “What may be wrong with the police report?” Do not allow the adjustor to bully you into taking a position as to the cause of the collision.
5. Be cautious when admitting fault. Many times drivers think that they are responsible, when legally another party is responsible. However, once you admit fault it is very difficult to retract that admission.
6. Be prepared to be asked about your medical condition and the decision if you wish to disclose your medical condition. While it is reasonable to answer questions as to when you first went to the doctors or hospital, be very cautious about discussing your injuries. As a general rule, you should avoid discussing the details of your injuries in the first call. We have seen many folks specify that they were ok at the time of the adjustors call, but were suffering very painful injuries just a few days later. Delaying discussion about your medical condition usually make sense.
7. Be prepared to answer questions about work. They may ask where you are employed, the names of your supervisors, etc. They may ask you if your injuries prevent your ability to perform at work.
8. Be prepared to respond to questions about settlement. As a general rule, you should think about delaying any settlement discussions. You always have the chance to settle a case and there should not be any rush to settle. Waiting for some time to settle is always a good idea, so that you can properly assess your current medical condition, and your current losses. Once you settle, all claims are lost. It is for this reason that waiting to sign any settlement documents also make sense.
9. Keep track of your collision in one central location. You should have notes of all your phone calls with all adjustors, making sure that you have their names, telephone numbers and employee numbers. [why would you need their employee numbers??]