How Recorded Statements Can Hurt Your Insurance Claim
If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, you and the other parties involved may elect to settle the matter privately or seek compensation through an insurance provider. In the latter case, you are likely to speak with either your insurance company or another party’s insurer regardless of who is at fault in the collision. While it may seem to be a necessary step of filing, corroborating, or defending against a claim, making recorded statements to an insurance company can be hazardous to your case for several reasons.
1. Your statement may include admissions of fault. Most states do not use a no-fault system of automobile insurance. In such states, the party who is at fault or his or her insurer will compensate the other parties involved for their damages. When a claim is filed, the insurer will analyze each party’s statements and review any documentation provided by the parties such as police reports or damage estimates to determine which party was at fault in the collision. Prior to making any type of statement to either the other party or their insurance company you should consult with an attorney.
The website of a Pasadena personal injury law firm states “You must not discuss the facts of the accident with the other party. You must not give any written or recorded statements to the adverse party’s insurance company.” If you do not believe that you were at fault for the collision, your statements may inadvertently say otherwise. Insurers will assign you a percentage of the fault and a jury will do the same in the event that litigation arises; in both cases, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage to which you are at fault.
2. Your statement may indicate that you did not correctly perceive the circumstances surrounding the accident. Victims often report limited recollection of the incident after a traumatic event. In many cases, there will be gaps in your knowledge that you may subconsciously fill with reasonable inferences, which may or may not be correct. If you incorrectly describe the roadway surface, the prevailing traffic conditions, or your actions immediately prior to the incident and if there is evidence that your statements are not correct, your credibility will be limited. Since many automobile accidents often boil down to two parties with contradictory statements, your chances of recovering damages will be compromised.
3. Your statement may omit certain damages. One of the first things that your insurance provider will ask you after a collision is whether you were injured. If you were not injured, answering in the negative is the only correct response. However, latent injuries are common after automobile accidents, as are normal aches and pains; the latter ordinarily resolves after a few days while the former can affect you for the rest of your life. Identifying whether a specific malady is a cause for concern is a job for medical professionals. Writing off your injuries as immaterial may come back to haunt you if your injuries later worsen. If you did not undergo an examination from a physician who gave you a clean bill of health, do not affirmatively state that you were not injured.
4. Your statement may contradict earlier or subsequent statements. One of the quickest ways to undermine your credibility as an accident victim is to change your story. If you made a statement to the police that could be construed as admitting fault but later deny any wrongdoing or if you provide different explanations to different people who are interviewed by the insurer, your account of the incident will be less credible than other accounts. Spontaneous statements at the scene or other claims made in private discussions with the other parties may contain inaccuracies that may be used against you.
5. Your statement may indicate that damages occurred under circumstances excluded by your policy. Most insurance policies carry a large list of exclusions and only cover damage that occurs in certain circumstances. Damage from wind, fire, vandalism, and animals is usually covered under a comprehensive policy, but many policies exclude specific events. If the damage to your vehicle did not occur as a result of a collision between two motor vehicles and if the damage arose as a result of a combination of factors, such as a wind and water damage, coverage may be denied.
Most insurers will require a statement from you and for that statement to be on the record. Even if the statement itself is not recorded, your answers to the insurer’s questions will be logged. Fortunately, there are alternatives to providing an insurer with a recorded statement at the outset of a claim. Using legal counsel as a buffer between you and your insurer is one way to skirt the issue.
A personal injury attorney experienced in handling accident claims will know how to handle negotiations with the insurance company. Even if the attorney is unwilling to handle the matter for you, consulting with an attorney allows you to explore your rights under the law and he or she analyze any statements that you intend to make before you say something that will harm you later.
Valerie Stout Cyrus is a freelance writer who frequently researches car accident claims. While researching information for this article she used an online search for Pasadena personal injury law firm which provided many valuable resources.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/8273925000/
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