If you have suffered a personal injury or wrongful death in the family and you intend to bring a claim for damages, it is important that you take steps to protect your rights. A single inadvertent mistake could be the difference between winning a fair settlement or walking away with nothing. One of the most common errors made by claimants is providing a recorded statement to the insurance company.
Just like any other business, insurance carriers want to maximize their profits. Every time they have to pay out a settlement, it cuts into their bottom line. This is especially true in cases that involve significant damages.
As you might suspect, insurance adjusters are incredibly adept at finding reasons to deny and undervalue claims. One of their most effective strategies for doing so is to ask leading questions that are designed to elicit responses that can be used to dispute the claim. In other words, your very own statements can be used to challenge your case.
It is likely that you will be contacted by the insurance company within a few days of the accident. When this happens, you should direct this phone call and all future correspondence from the insurer to your lawyer. A seasoned personal injury attorney will know what to say—and what not to say—to the adjuster to put you in the best possible position to recover a fair settlement.
What Are the Consequences of Giving a Recorded Statement to the Insurer?
Your recorded statements will almost certainly be admissible in court. That means if the insurance adjuster can coerce you into saying something that brings liability, causation, or damages into question, your statements could end up reducing your financial recovery or preventing you from obtaining any compensation whatsoever. Your statements could also be the difference between resolving the case in a matter of weeks or months and having to enter protracted litigation that lasts for well over a year.
Below are just a few kinds of disputes that might arise if you give a recorded statement to the insurer:
- Your Injuries Are Not as Serious as You Are Claiming: The adjuster might ask questions about the severity of your injuries and how they are impacting your quality of life. Examples include: “Are your injuries still causing pain?” “Have your injuries prevented you from attending social activities?” “Have they impacted your relationships with family members?” “Are the injuries preventing you from working?” Your responses to these questions could directly impact the kinds of damages you are able to recover and the value of those damages. For instance, if you say the injuries are no longer causing pain, you may be in a less favorable position to obtain fair compensation for pain and suffering. If they have not diminished your ability to attend social events, it may be more difficult to prove a loss of life enjoyment. If you have returned to work, your claim for lost income might be weakened even if a doctor later advises you to stay home from work.
- You Have Failed to Mitigate the Damages: If you partake in activities that have the potential to aggravate your injuries or prolong your recovery, the insurer might argue that you should not be compensated for 100 percent of your losses due to a failure to mitigate damages. In other words, the insurer will say that you have not taken reasonable steps to facilitate your medical recovery. To set the foundation for this defense, the adjuster might ask, “Have your injuries prevented you from working or returning to physical activities?” “What kinds of physical activities have you participated in since the accident?” You could also face such a dispute if you fail to follow your doctor’s orders. The adjuster may ask, for example, “Have you missed any doctor’s appointments?” “Have you filled your prescriptions yet?” “Did your doctor advise you to take time off work or avoid strenuous activities?
- You Were Partially Liable for the Accident: “What were you doing just before the accident?” While you might be certain that another party is liable for your injuries, the insurer will want to find out whether your own negligence might have played a role. If so, the award of damages would be reduced by your own percentage of fault. Often the injured party might describe the accident by stating that the other party “came out of nowhere”. This phrase may sound fine to a layperson but is “toxic” in auto litigation. It implies that the injured party was not paying attention, and that phrase should never leave the lips of a plaintiff in automobile litigation.
- The Accident Was Caused by Another Defendant: If you describe the accident in detail, you might implicate another party. For instance, if you were involved in a car accident and suggest that your vehicle had been handling poorly since leaving the mechanic last week, your insurer might try to argue that the mechanic’s negligence was a contributing factor. This could complicate the proceedings and open the door to disputes over comparative negligence.
- The Damages Were Caused by a Preexisting Condition: “Did you have any injuries or illnesses before the accident happened?” If you had a preexisting medical condition that was aggravated in the accident, the insurer might try to dispute causation. In other words, they might contend that the damages being sought were caused by the preexisting condition and not by the accident.
What Other Mistakes Could Harm My Claim?
As you can see, giving a recorded statement to the insurance company could open the door to all kinds of disputes. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only mistake that could harm your claim. Others include:
- Mentioning your injuries or accident on social networking websites;
- Ignoring your doctor’s orders;
- Participating in strenuous activities that could aggravate your condition; or
- Putting off your legal consultation, which could cause time-sensitive evidence to become unavailable.
Call (562) 206-1939 for a Free Consultation with a Long Beach Personal Injury Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Attorney Michael D. Waks has many years of experience taking on some of the largest insurance companies in California. He can level the playing field, protect your rights, and help you fight for the highest compensation possible. For a free consultation, email us HERE or call (562) 206-1939.
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