After an accident, is it a good idea to speak with the insurance companies and, if so, to what extent? The answer to these questions greatly depends upon the facts of your case.
With regards to your insurance company, you generally have an obligation “to cooperate” with your insurance company, which normally includes several obligations. For example, you may: be required to notify your insurance company about the accident within a specific time period after the accident, give your medical records, give a recorded statement or examination under oath, and so on. The obligations and extent of that cooperation can change depend upon the type of claim you are filing. An attorney will be able to help you navigate these issues and your obligations.
In contrast with your insurance company, you do not have to talk to the at-fault party’s insurance company – even if they tell you they accept liability. This is especially important immediately after an accident. While you will eventually need to speak with them to settle any claims (unless you hire an attorney), all you need to do immediately after the accident is give them your name, address, telephone number, and tell them whether you are going to seek treatment and whether you suffered any property damage (for example, your car was wrecked).
Even though you are not obligated to speak with the insurance company of the driver that hit you, the insurance claim adjuster (the person assigned to process your claim) will likely ask you for more than you are obligated to give them to “help them resolve your case quickly.” For example, they may ask your social security number and tell you they are required to obtain it before they can settle your claim, which is only true in some cases. Even if you have to give them your social security, giving the insurance company your social security number can weaken your negotiation position. Depending on your history (and the insurance company), this can include a broad amount of information including criminal history, prior accidents, foreclosure, bankruptcy, and so on. The claim adjuster can then use all of this information in evaluating how much to offer you to settle your case. If you do not give some of that information to the insurance company too soon, you may be in a better negotiating position.
Similarly, the insurance company of the driver that caused the accident may request you tell them your recollection of the accident and how you are feeling and give a recorded statement. The adjuster will likely ask this shortly after the accident. During the recorded interview, the claim adjuster will ask you questions about the accident, your injuries, symptoms, and job history. While it may not seem like that big of a deal – I mean you are just answering their questions truthfully and you are not trying to hid anything – it can significantly affect your claim and negotiation position. The insurance company adjuster will ask you questions to try and limit your claims. For example the adjuster will ask you about your injuries and will likely ask you to describe all of your injuries. You will give a list, and the claim adjuster will ask something like “anything else?” And the adjuster will keep asking that question until you say something like “that is all.” While these questions seem innocent enough, remember, the adjuster is doing everything he or she can to reduce and limit your claim. Let me explain. As I mentioned, in my other post, some injuries can take weeks to first appear, which the insurance adjuster knows. So, the insurance adjuster will use your recorded statement taken a few days after the accident – your own words saying you have no more injuries – to discredit your claim for any additional injuries that may have been discovered after you gave your recorded statement.
The insurance adjuster for the driver that hit your car will also likely ask for your a list of your medical providers and to sign a medical releases so they can get your medical bills and medical records to help analyze the value of your claim. On the surface, this seems reasonable. After all, you want at-fault insurance company to pay for the medical treatment you recived for injuries you sustained in the accident. While you will eventually need to give this information, if you give an unrestricted medical release, they can access your entire medical record history (even if they say they will not, they could). Most people do not want someone else to have access to their entire medical history because there is likely very personal and private information in your records. Instead of executing a medical release, you can simply direct your medical providers to provide your medical records and bills for just the accident to the insurance company.
Another reason not to speak with an insurance adjuster is you do not know the value of your claim. It is likely you have never been in an accident before, or if you have, you have not been in enough accidents to know the value of your claim. The insurance adjuster knows this and will oftentimes tell you that your claim is not worth anything or that you could not be hurt because the damage to your vehicle was so small. This can be very hurtful and upsetting. This is one of the reasons it is a good idea to retain an attorney. An attorney can evaluate your claim and advise you as to how to proceed.
Finally, I always recommend speaking with an attorney before you sign anything from the insurance company of the driver that hit your vehicle; especially a release. Before you sign anything, you want to make sure you understand everything you are agreeing. Remember, some injuries may not appear for weeks after an accident. If you have already signed a release and accept an offer, you are giving-up any ability to file a lawsuit later or ask for more money to pay for medical bills. Once again, an attorney can help you evaluate your claims and injuries and whether the proposed settlement agreement will be enough to compensate you for your injuries and when you should sign a release.
Speaking with the insurance adjuster can be hazardous, even if it is your own insurance company. So we recommended you seek counsel from an attorney. Quillen Law PSC can help you navigate these conversations and advise how you should proceed.
DISCLAIMER – This article is only meant to provide general information and not legal advice. Since every case and facts are unique and different, readers should not act upon the information contained in this article without seeking advice from an attorney. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship.