I recently read a great blogpost written by Sharita Blacknall, a Dallas, Texas personal injury attorney. She highlighted the reasons why you should say no to your insurance company after a car accident when they want you to make a recorded statement. I cannot agree enough! When you are in a car accident, the insurance company is not your friend; their goal is to pay you as little as possible. You can read more about my distain for insurance companies here:
Why Do Insurance Companies Want You to Make a Statement After your Car Accident?
I’ve always enjoyed David Letterman and his top ten list and so I thought I could put together a top ten list on why insurance companies want you to make a statement:
- Fault: They would like you to admit that you were looking at your phone or that you were driving too fast, that way they can hold that against you when paying you out. In Missouri there is comparative fault, which means they will apportion fault to the Defendant and you as well. So, in a car accident case you may be 5% at fault for looking at your GPS and thus the money paid to you will be 5% less.
- Less Money: The insurance company is doing anything in their power to find a way to pay you less money.
- Your Injuries are minor: Most insurance companies try to get you to say on the record, “my injuries are not bad.” It makes me really upset when an insurance company convinces a Plaintiff to admit that their injuries are not that bad. This is a snapshot in time, when your neck or back may not be hurting that bad. However, injuries should not be looked at with a snapshot but should be looked at over time. This is one of the many reasons why I advise my clients to not settle right after your car accident. You should wait to determine what injuries you have actually sustained.
- Evidence for trial: Everything that you say in your recorded statement can be used against you at trial. For example, if you said you injuries are not that bad and then later you find out that you have a herniated disk in your back, they can use your statement against you to try and say your injuries were not from the car accident.
- They want to talk to you before you hire an attorney! Once they know that I am involved the entire game changes. I know how to protect you and get you the compensation that you deserve. They want to get a recorded statement about the car accident before we can chat.
- Money: They want to take your recorded statement in order to give you a low-ball offer. They want get all of the dirt so they can offer you a bad settlement before you talk to a lawyer.
- Limit the Story: Insurance companies want to limit the facts as much as possible that way there are fewer explanations about the facts of the case. Often, experts are needed to explain the facts of the case or additional discovery is needed. Recorded statements help the insurance companies discredit the discovery or expert reports.
- Heat of the Moment: Insurance companies try to talk to you before you can gather all of the facts and get your emotions in check. Immediately after the accident is the best time for an insurance company to discredit your testimony.
- Witnesses: Insurance companies want to make sure there aren’t any other witnesses that weren’t interviewed by the police. By talking to you, they will find out if there are any other witnesses and interview them before an attorney can get their statement.
- Scare Tactics: The insurance company would like to scare you into a settlement. By making you give a recorded statement without an attorney, they will try and convince you to settle. They will tell you that your case is not worth very much and that you are “lucky” that they are paying out anything. Don’t be fooled by these scare tactics, they are designed to pay you less money.
Sharita, in her blog post does a good job about spelling out the preparation that is needed before talking with your insurance company. It is important to understand that even your insurance company is not always your friend. We may need to make a demand on your insurance company for underinsured motorist coverage or uninsured motorist coverage. My advice for any of my clients is to let me be present when you make your statement.
However, if you are not planning on hiring an attorney these are a few of the things that you should read and do before giving a statement:
- Read the police report and make sure that your story matches with the story written by the police report;
- Make sure the witnesses are properly identified in the police report;
- Is the date correct;
- Time of day;
- Weather conditions;
- Street Location;
- Cars accurately identified;
- Make sure you tell them that you are still treating and going to doctors and make it explicitly clear that the injuries were caused by the accident;
- If there was another passenger in the car, get their point of view as well. Learning someone else’s vantage point may enhance your story. This will help you before you talk to your insurance company.
What to Do if the Police Report is Wrong
Most lawyers do not know that you can get a police report corrected by inserting an addendum. I like to get the police report fixed before my client gives a written or an oral statement to the insurance company. If you go to the police station where the report is located you can add more facts to the record. We do this all the time because it really shows that you are interested in the true facts of the case. Remember, policemen see many accidents and don’t have the time to write detailed reports. You can supplement the police report prior to your recorded statement with the insurance company to corroborate your story.
Contact an Attorney Before Giving a Recorded Statement
Before you give a statement to an insurance company you should contact an attorney. Before my clients give a statement I will make sure we have done the proper discovery to learn the entire story. Moreover, often I will have my clients give a written statement that I can review rather than giving an oral statement over the phone. I can help you deal with insurance companies. Remember, it is their job to pay you less and it is my job to get you more money for your injuries. Give me a call at 816-200-2900 if you have questions!
Robert Kinsman is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Robert Kinsman is passionate about normalizing the life of his clients after they have been seriously injured. Learn more about his experience here.