After an accident, you need to take several steps to begin the claims process to recover damages. This might include contacting your own insurance company, or you might receive communication from another party's auto, home, or business insurance provider, depending on the circumstances of your accident.
Contact a car accident lawyer to guide you through the claims process and handle communications with the insurance company as soon as possible. However, you might find yourself speaking with an adjuster before you have the chance to meet with a lawyer. Insurance companies are quick to contact those involved in accidents to catch people off guard and get them to talk while they are still emotional.
After an accident, you must understand your obligations in speaking with an insurance company whether yours or another party's. Saying the wrong thing can negatively affect the outcome of a claim. Some might not recover any damages because of the damage they caused when speaking with the insurance company involved with an accident claim. Below, we offer a broad overview that covers ten things you should not tell your insurance company after an accident.
Don't Take Blame
Some assume that admitting they are partially or wholly responsible for an accident puts them in a good light with an insurance adjuster. However, this is not the case, regardless of who the policyholder is. Insurance companies stay in business by protecting their profits. They want to close a claim as soon as possible for as cheap as possible. The representative assigned to the case will look for ways to save the company money.
If you admit blame, even a small portion, for an accident, you provide grounds for the insurer to deny your claim, make lowball settlement offers and dispute liability for your damages. Of course, you should never lie to an insurance company, but you don't have to offer them more information than they need. Nor do you have to admit liability.
Don't Offer Opinions
Naturally, you want to tell your side of the story after an accident happens. And the insurance company wants you to talk. The more you tell them, the more ammunition they might have to dispute liability. You'll find that insurance adjusters will let you talk as much as you want during a phone call. They listen carefully to look for tidbits of information that allow them to shift the blame to you for the accident or your injuries.
Opinions about how an accident occurred are subjective, so it's best to avoid telling your insurance company information about what you think led to the accident. The insurance company can use anything you say against you. They will investigate the accident and decide about how it occurred.
You should only share information about the accident backed by solid evidence and then, only if your lawyer approves. If you don't know the answer to a question, don't offer an opinion or guess. It's best to say, "I don't know."
Don't Offer Extra Details
Only answer the questions presented to you by an insurance adjuster. Offer brief and simple responses that answer the question without providing additional details. Anything you say can be used against you, so it's in your best interest to avoid long conversations and extra details.
They can lead to you accidentally saying something that can negatively impact your case and reduce your chances of receiving maximum compensation for your injuries and related losses.
The insurance representative does not need to know every little detail of your life after the accident. Don't discuss information about your family, your job, past accidents, past injuries, and anything that is not strictly relevant to your accident injury claim.
Also, don't answer questions that haven't come up. For example, if the insurance adjuster does not ask how fast you were traveling in a vehicle when a crash occurred, there is no reason to offer this information.
Don't Share Information About Substance Use
Whether you suffered injuries in a traffic collision, a slip and fall accident, or some other event, never volunteer information that confirms you consumed alcohol or any drugs, illegal or legal.
After a car crash, the insurance company may blame you for the accident. Drunk driving is illegal, even if you had a drink or two a few hours before a crash, the insurance company might deny your claim.
If the police arrived at the accident, they might have given you a Breathalyzer or field tests to check for drug and alcohol use. The police report will contain this information. If you suffered injuries in another event, your medical record might reveal drug and/or alcohol use.
In any case, if evidence reveals that you were under the influence or could have been, the other side will eventually see it. However, you might not know if that evidence exists, so avoid all discussions about substance use to protect your claim and prevent the other side from getting ammunition to avoid financial liability for your injuries.
Do Not Offer Names of Family/Friends/Witnesses
Insurance companies spend ample time investigating accidents and injuries to determine liability. Even if they know their policyholder is liable for an accident and injuries, they still hunt for ways to reduce the value of a claim. After their initial determination, insurance representatives may continue investigating claims under the radar.
One tactic they use to find ammunition to devalue a claim is to talk to friends, coworkers, family members, doctors, and witnesses to get more information about the accident, your injuries, and your rehabilitation.
Never discuss your case with friends and family, but even more importantly, don't provide names and contact information for anyone. Well-meaning people in your social and professional network might say something that inadvertently hurts your claim. They might find the contact information other ways, but you don't have to make it easy for them.
Not all information they find will hurt your case, but it could. It's best to err on the side of caution. If your family, friends, coworkers, or witnesses have information about the accident, let them first share it with your lawyer.
Don't Provide a Recorded Statement
Insurance companies may request a recorded statement from a claimant. You get no benefit from giving a recorded statement about an accident to the insurance carrier, and you legally do not have to provide one.
Insurance companies like recorded statements because they can comb through them to look for inconsistencies and contradictions. When they return to the statement, they can take your words out of context and use them against you. The insurance adjuster can still take notes, look for contradictions, and use your words against you. Yet, it's much harder when they cannot repeatedly revisit the same recording.
The request for a recorded statement often comes at the beginning of a phone call, so be on the lookout. The representative will ask if it's okay to record the call. You can politely decline the request and let them know that you are not ready to give a statement at this time.
Once you consult a personal injury lawyer, they might advise you to give a statement. However, then you'll better understand what topics and things to avoid. If you already hired an attorney, you can direct the adjuster to contact your lawyer.
Don't Provide Access to Your Entire Medical History
Another common tactic insurance carriers use to reduce the value of a claim is to downplay a claimant's injuries. They look for preexisting injuries and other events that explain symptoms and draw attention away from fresh injuries from an accident.
They may need a copy of medical records, but only those directly related to the injuries you suffered from the accident. They may ask you to sign a document to release these records. However, many insurance carriers push ethical boundaries by tricking claimants to waive access to their complete medical history.
If you suffered a back injury 20 years ago that your medical history documents, the insurance company will argue the accident didn’t cause your injury.
Never give the insurance company access to your medical records or sign any permission forms. Let a lawyer review your case and provide them with only the information they need to process the claim. Your attorney can review any forms and ensure you do not authorize unnecessary access.
Don't Accept the First Settlement Offer
Insurance companies have no desire to drag out claims. The longer a claim goes on, the more expensive it is. If an insurance carrier finds their policyholder is at fault for an accident and injuries, they know they will have to pay something.
Insurance companies sometimes offer an early settlement for far less than fair compensation. Many accident victims do not know their long-term prognosis, and some might not have discovered the full scope of their injuries.
Insurance carriers prey on claimants who struggle financially because of medical expenses and lost income by offering enough money to get them to accept an agreement and resolve the claim.
Once you accept a settlement offer, you must also waive your right to future claims for the same event and injuries. The insurance company had to pay, but likely not as much as they would have with longer settlement negotiations or going to trial. And accident victims who later discover they have a permanent injury will need to self-fund their continued care and treatment. Let your lawyer review all settlement offers and use them as a starting point for negotiations.
Don't Let them Know You Haven't Hired a Lawyer
Insurance companies are less likely to play games when they know someone has legal representation. Adjusters are more likely to take advantage of you, so never tell them you have not consulted a personal injury lawyer.
Insurance providers treat claimants who have legal counsel with more respect and take their claims more seriously. Personal injury lawyers know how to communicate with insurance companies and anticipate many tactics they use to avoid financial liability for their policyholders, so contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in Myrtle Beach as soon as possible after an accident.