Should I provide a recorded statement to the insurance company?

Here is a common scenario: You’ve been in a car accident that wasn’t your fault. A few days after the wreck, the adjuster for the insurance company of the person who hit you calls on the telephone. She wants you to give a recorded statement telling her how the accident happened and provide her some personal information. She says she wants to help you, and all she needs before she can pay you is a brief statement. She seems so nice. You have nothing to hide, do you? And you want to be helpful. So what could be wrong with answering her questions on tape? Plenty!

As a general rule, you should never give a recorded or oral statement concerning your accident to anyone without talking to a personal injury lawyer first. One exception to this is when talking to your own insurance company. You need to cooperate fully with them.

Insurance companies want to keep their money and avoid paying claims. They want to talk to you “on the record” before you are protected by an attorney so that any slip of the tongue or lapse of memory can be used against you later. The more you have to explain yourself, the less focus on the wrongful conduct of the other party. Ask yourself what an adjuster can gain from a recorded statement that is not obtainable with informal discussion. The answer is not a thing. Therefore, the demand for a recorded statement must benefit them and that is why they want it. To reduce claims paid, the insurance company must deny claims made. To do this, company employees will look for reasons to deny your claim. They may use your recorded statement for this purpose. How?

Even a vague question answered in a vague way by you can be an opportunity for an attorney later to accuse you of misstating the truth. Insurance company employees will ask questions worded in such a way that they trap or trick you into responses that hurt your case. You may not even realize this is happening at the time. They may try to push or bully you into agreeing to facts you aren’t certain are completely accurate. You respond “I guess so” just to get the questioner off your back. Unfortunately, that “I guess so” can come back to haunt you later.

Insurance company employees will compare the statement you gave them with other statements you have made including statements you gave an investigating police officer or statements you made during your deposition in a lawsuit arising from the accident. Where they find inconsistencies in your multiple statements, which is not unusual when someone tells the story of his wreck more than once, sometimes weeks or months apart, the company will claim you lied. The company may deny your claim as a result.

People feel a need to be nice. Adjusters take advantage of people’s need to be nice. Adjusters know that most people will answer whatever questions seem reasonable, even if the question is not relevant to the claim. Personal questions that do not have relevance to your claim should not be answered. Questions about your income, for example, are not appropriate unless you are making a claim for lost wages. Sometimes adjusters ask for your Social Security number so they can look you up on a database called Insurance Service Office (ISO) Claimsearch.

The bottom line is that you should never give a recorded statement to an insurance company representative without the advice and guidance of an attorney. When you turn down the representative’s request, be courteous but firm. No matter how garrulous and personable they may be when they’re talking to you, always keep in mind that they are employees of the insurance company and represent only its interests – not yours.

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