Statements to the Insurance Company Are Always a Bad Idea
Statements in Personal Injury Cases
The old standby of criminal defense attorneys that you should never talk to the police applies similarly to personal injury cases and your communication with the insurance carrier. Just don’t do it!
Why is it a bad idea to talk to the insurance carrier?
Every thing you say to the other driver’s insurance carrier will be used against you. First, even an innocuous response to a seemingly harmless question from the friendly adjuster’s query of “how are you feeling?” is fraught with problems. Tell her you are feeling “much better” than yesterday means the mean old insurance company will dispute your claim that you were still in pain a week later. A statement that you are feeling “horrible” might not help either, if your medical records show you are “feeling better.” Everything you say, whether recorded or not, is parsed, notated, and interpreted. It will never help your case, and will almost always harm the value of your case.
How do claims adjusters get you to talk and why?
Most of the time, they do not do much more than play the “nice person” card and ask seemingly caring questions about how you are doing following your crash, fall, or other injury. They promise to “take care of your bills,” tell you that they agree to “100% liability,” and otherwise reassure the unsuspecting that they are on their side. After all, aren’t they the “Good Neighbors” and “Good Hands People?”
All those statements the adjuster makes are meaningless and unenforceable. But they sure sound good to many people, who then make the often fatal-to-their-claim decision to provide a recorded statement about how the incident occurred and their injuries and medical treatment.
- Adjusters are trained to get you to admit key facts against your interest (“well maybe I did see the other car before I entered the intersection.”).
- Adjusters get you to minimize your injuries (“yeah, I’m feeling much better today and I went to work”)
- Adjusters will cast doubt on your version of events (“no, I am not certain the other car had no turn signal.”)
What other ways can my statement be used against me?
You do not receive a copy of any statements you provide to the insurance company! This means that every statement you make in the future of your claim, such as at your deposition, must follow exactly what you said in your recorded statement or you will be impeached. An example is when you tell the friendly adjuster a few days after the crash that “I stopped pretty quick because the cars in front of me were stopping.” Then, at trial you testify that you made a gradual stop. Any half-awake defense attorney will then be waiving your statement and asking if you recall making the earlier statement. You now look like a liar at worst, or an unreliable witness at best.
The same goes for when you say “the floor was wet but I didn’t see what I slipped on.” If you then try to say that the floor was wet and you saw a mop bucket 5 feet from where you fell and never saw “wet floor” signs, you will have a very hard time being believed. That could kill your case right there!
How else can I harm my claim?
Posting things on social media.
If you post a few photos of your family vacation you took a month after the injury on Instagram or Facebook for Uncle Max and Aunt Ethel to view, it is a guarantee that the insurance adjuster or defense attorney will use these against you by arguing that “you sure look happy and healthy there!” It is very difficult to make the argument at trial that your life has changed and that you can hardly stand up without pain when the defense attorney has projected the photo of you holding a glass of wine with the Costa Rican sunset behind you while you dance on the party boat!
While you should never delete postings on social media, you should definitely refrain from posting or saying anything about your injuries, the incident, or your recovery.
The insurance company will seek out everything you post or say. If they cannot find your social media profile(s) due to privacy settings, they will either delay making you an offer to settle, or make a lowball offer. This will force you to file a lawsuit, in which case your social media accounts are discoverable (most judges are permitting this). That’s right, if you allege injury, the defense attorney will ask for your social media accounts and the judge will grant that request.
But the adjuster seems so friendly
Of course the adjuster seems friendly. It is his or her job to get you to let your guard down and talk. Most adjusters have years of experience, handling hundreds of cases a year. Adjusters with decades of experience have literally taken thousands of statements and handled tens of thousands of cases like yours. This is their job and they are much better at it than you are at handling insurance claims.
The friendly adjuster is not your friend. The friendly adjuster may receive bonuses for cases where liability or settlement is denied.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of providing a statement. Most of us like to talk about ourselves. Insurance companies know this and use it to their advantage and to your disadvantage. Before you make the fatal error of talking to the insurance adjuster, call a lawyer as soon as possible, to guide you through your case as your advocate.