Car accidents are confusing. A crash is often disorienting and adrenaline-inducing; it can make you second guess yourself. After an accident, many drivers face the temptation to call their insurance company from the scene and explain their side of the story. However, there’s a good reason why you should never give recorded statements after a motor vehicle accident.
A Cautionary Tale
Let’s start with an example. A man (we’ll call him John) was driving to work when another vehicle failed to stop at a stop sign and crashed into him. John does everything he’s supposed to do after a car accident. He checks for injuries, he calls the police, and the vehicles are towed from the scene.
Before contacting an attorney, John decides to give his insurance company a call to see if they will help him through the process without an attorney. They ask for a recorded statement about the crash. They even go so far as to tell him they won’t give him a rental car until he provides a recorded statement. John agrees, believing there’s no harm since he wasn’t at fault.
In his statement, John explains that “it all happened so fast” and he “didn’t even know there was a side street there” (where the other car ran the stop sign). He told the insurance adjuster that all he could do was brace for impact. John’s insurance company misconstrued his words and accused him of not doing enough to prevent that crash. They suggested that if he had time to brace for impact, then he could have avoided the crash if he had slammed on the brakes instead of just bracing for impact.
With no evidence but his recorded statement, the insurance company arbitrarily claimed John was 30% responsible for the accident. Instead of paying for John’s rental car, his totaled-out vehicle, and his emergency room bills, the insurance company only offered to pay 70% of everything since they thought he was 30% at fault.
Unfortunately, this has become a very common pattern. Insurance companies will come up with any creative argument then can think of to deny claims or limit paying on claims.
The Moral of the Story
So what, if anything, did John do wrong? Unfortunately, John did not realize that he is not required to give a recorded statement to an insurance company without seeking legal advice first.
Had he reached out to an attorney, the attorney would have protected him from the insurance company’s trap. The attorney would have advised John that he did not have to give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance and the attorney would have provided the information the other driver’s insurer needed without putting him through it.
An Extended Wait
Because of this one phone call, John missed time at work because the insurance company wouldn’t cover the full cost of a rental car after his was totaled. His employer was frustrated with him and he lost income. John’s credit was affected because the medical bills weren’t paid, and he missed car payments.
When John finally called an attorney, things began to get straightened out. However, it is possible that a lawsuit will have to be filed to undue the damage done by that recorded statement.
The adjuster made his mind up that he could limit the claim and payout less, and it may take a lawsuit to change the adjuster’s mind. An otherwise fairly straightforward clear liability case could become a long drawn out legal battle because of that one single phone call.
The Insurance Company Says the Recorded Statement is Required By Law
This is false. The law does not require anyone to give a recorded statement to an insurance company. There are some insurance policies that require certain persons to provide information to the insurance company, but this is not in every case or every policy and does not mean you have to submit to a recorded statement. There are other ways to provide the information that are less harmful in the long run.
Don’t be fooled by their forceful tactics to get you to submit to a recorded statement. They know they can twist a victim’s words around it will reduce the amount they payout so they will say anything to make you think you have no choice.
Insurance companies will analyze and comb over every word to find something to use against you to deny liability—in part or completely. Nothing good can come from making a recorded statement. Some drivers believe it’s the right thing to do, but it only hurts their case in the long run.
Do I Have to Give a Statement to the Insurance Company?
The insurance company said I have no choice. This is simply not true. You do have a choice. There are limited circumstances where a recorded statement is actually required and cannot be avoided – but these circumstances are very limited and a skilled car accident lawyer will know how to avoid them and protect you from the insurance company’s gamesmanship. In our experience, less than 1% of our clients actually give a recorded statement.
No matter what the insurance company tells you or how forcefully they try to convince you that you have no choice, remember you always have a choice. Contact an experienced car accident attorney to help you navigate the process.
Seldom does the act of retaining a lawyer not result in a better settlement for a client, even after contingent attorneys fees are paid. This is because a skilled lawyer will know how to avoid the insurance company’s traps and force them to do the right thing and pay the claim.
The message is clear: Never give a recorded statement after a motor vehicle accident without contacting an experienced car accident lawyer to protect your rights.
If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries in a motor accident, you might have a case. If you’d like an experienced Valdosta car accident attorney from the Studstill Firm to evaluate your claim, don’t hesitate to send us an email or call (229) 515-8900.