You have been in an accident here in the Flathead Valley, but fortunately it is obvious that no one is seriously injured. A few days later, you receive a call from the insurance company of the other driver. He or she may sound nice enough on the phone, but remember, you are not legally required to speak with this representative. In fact, it is best not to speak to them without legal representation if there’s even a small chance you or anyone else involved in the accident could have significant injuries or damages, or the question of who caused the accident is in dispute. Once you have hired a lawyer, all communication should go through your legal counsel.
If your injuries are undeniably insignificant, it is clear that the total insurance coverage is minimal, or the police report clearly faults the other driver as the cause of the accident, you may decide to speak to the adjuster on your own. If you do, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- It is the primary goal of the other driver’s car insurance company to pay out as little money as possible. The company does not have your best interest in mind. It wants to find evidence that you were at fault for the accident, and that your damages or injuries are minor (or nonexistent). You shouldn’t tell the insurer that you feel fine or that your injuries are minor. Even if you believe this is the case, some car accident injuries don’t show up right away, and other minor injuries can turn out to be much more serious than expected. If an adjuster calls during the first week after the accident, you are well within your rights to let them know you are not going to talk about medical issues until the property damages are taken care of.
- The only reason the adjuster for the other insurance company wants your statement is so they can attempt to build a defense against your claim or minimize the payment of the claim. Adjusters have been known to contact an unsuspecting accident victim under the idea they are there to help settle the claim, when really they are gathering information from the conversation to minimize the claim and pay the victim less than they are owed.
- Only answer the question being asked. Do not volunteer additional information or agree to have your statement recorded, whether it’s over the phone or in writing. The purpose of a recorded or written statement is to lock you into a certain version of events, including the extent of your injuries or property damage. However, what you know or feel can easily change days after the accident. One commonly asked question from adjusters is “Who, in your opinion, had the last opportunity to avoid the accident?” You should answer the question to demonstrate that there was nothing you could have done to avoid the accident, and that you can’t be at fault, even partially, for what happened.
- Do not guess or speculate as to what happened. If you don’t know, it’s okay to tell the car insurance company that.
- If you need to provide more than just basic, objective details about the accident (beyond the date of the accident, where it occurred, names of any witnesses or the police officer who prepared the police report), ask to have your own car insurance company’s adjuster on the line during the phone call. Even better, just provide the detailed information to your own car insurance’s company’s adjuster and have your adjuster speak directly with the other driver’s insurer. Getting assistance from your car insurance company’s adjuster may help prevent you from accidentally saying the wrong thing, or saying more than you have to. It is also beneficial to refer the adjuster to the police report, if he or she is seeking additional information about the accident.
- Lastly, take and keep notes about your conversation. Who you were speaking to, the number where they can be contacted, the company they work for, the name of the individual they represent, what time they called, a general list of the questions asked and the answers you provided.
Remember, you do not have to face this situation alone. The attorneys at Bryan, diStefano & Mattingley have the experience necessary to protect your best interests in this situation, so that you can focus on healing and moving on.