He or she seems nice, what is the harm in talking to him or her?
The best way to ruin a perfectly good case is by talking to an adjuster. Why? Because we like to talk, and adjusters are trained to get you to talk. Their goal is to get you to admit to things that will hurt your case. The good ones get you to do this without you even realizing what is happening.
If you are involved in any sort of motor vehicle crash, slip and fall injury, or even work-related injury, the first thing most insurance companies do is call you and ask you “what happened.” Some will even show up at the scene of the crash, the hospital, or your home, waiving a check and a release in your face. Some people either take the money, ending their claim right there, or, almost as bad, talk to the adjuster and provide a recorded statement.
What could be the harm in talking to the adjuster? With your consent, a recorded statement will be taken. It will also be used against you.
Often, claimants believe that the insurance company is going to “take care of everything,” so, they reason, what is the harm in talking the nice adjuster on the phone? The problem with talking to the nice adjuster is that the nice adjuster knows the law, knows the claims process, and gets bonuses for claims denied or underpaid. He or she is decidedly not your friend.
The insurance adjuster (much like a defense attorney) knows the law, and understands exactly what information to try to squeeze out of you to discredit or devalue your claim and provide her company’s insured a defense.
A common tactic is acting as your friend and confidante. This plays into your hands of feeling “listened to,” and when we are treated respectfully, we tend to divulge more information. That is precisely why you should not talk to the adjuster. Remember, she knows the law and you don’t. She handles hundreds of cases like yours every year. This might be your first time!
Even the seemingly innocuous question of “how are you feeling today?” can haunt you if you say “I’m much better than yesterday.” Good luck getting them to pay for any medical treatment after that!
Most important of all is never ever give a recorded statement. This is their profession and they are very good at it. You may hang up thinking all is fine without realizing how you had just provided them a perfect defense. (“I guess maybe I did stop suddenly”).
In this example above, just a “guided” admission that perhaps you stopped a bit suddenly before the other driver rear-ended you could let that driver and his insurance carrier off the hook for your injuries and property damage. His story could be that you stopped suddenly in front of him and he had no time to stop. The adjuster will have talked to his insured and already knows this. Even if it is completely self-serving and made up, imagine now that the adjuster talks to you and gently coaxes you into the trap of admitting that you might just have slammed on the brakes a bit suddenly. Adjuster and his insured-1. You-0.
In most cases, personal injury lawyers do not handle the damage to your vehicle, so you might be talking to the adjuster about repairing your vehicle. Make sure to follow your lawyer’s instructions on how to handle this. You do not want to talk about anything but the vehicle.
It is always a must to report the claim. You can provide the following information: date, time, place of occurrence. A brief description of what happened (make sure you know exactly what you are going to say and also make sure you understand why their insured may be responsible. If you report a traffic crash but cannot say what the other party did wrong, you have just blown your case!). Do not answer questions about anything in detail about the incident and do not respond when asked how you feel. Report your injuries as vaguely as you can and do not cut yourself off—if parts of your body hurt, tell them. Omitting a major complaint will be used against you.
Take photos of where you fell, the scene of the crash, or the machine that injured you. Take photos of any visible burns, scars, cuts, or swelling.
Report the incident to the police. In the event of a work incident, report it to your manager, preferably in writing. If you fell on a private property or sidewalk, make a report and photograph the scene. If you fell inside a store, have the manager fill out a report and ask for a copy. If you are traveling or away from home, it is still imperative that you report the claim. An email or text to the claims adjuster, your employer, or local entity is a great way to document your incident contemporaneously. Do not delay!
Get immediate medical attention. Do not delay, as every delay in treatment is always used against you.
Talking to and retaining a lawyer as close to the incident as possible is the best way to avoid making a mistake when talking to the adjuster because your lawyer will not allow you to talk to the adjuster!
Follow your attorney’s lead in avoiding these pitfalls. When in doubt, ask your lawyer what to do.
Stephen L. Hoffman is the founder of Law Office of Stephen L. Hoffman LLC. He has concentrated his practice for the last 26 plus years in the areas of Personal Injury and Workers' Compensation, as well as Medical Malpractice. He has recovered compensation for injured clients and welcomes your inquiries. Please contact him at 773-944-9737 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.