Should I give a Recorded Statement to an Insurance Adjuster?

Very shortly after you have been involved in an automobile, motorcycle or truck accident, you will probably receive a call from an insurance adjuster.  The adjuster is an employee of the insurance company that represents the other driver.  They are usually very friendly and will want to discuss the accident with you.  They will claim that your version of what happened is necessary to complete their paperwork and get you a settlement check more quickly.  I often get calls from clients at this stage, asking me if they should give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster.  In short, the answer is “no.”  In order to understand why we discourage giving a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster, you need to understand the role of such a statement in the processing of a claim.

An insurance adjuster is a highly trained professional whose entire job consists of “adjusting” the amount owed on a claim to a lower number.  They are very skilled at taking recorded statements that are crafted to reduce the amount of money they will eventually pay on a claim.  Insurance adjusters follow scripts and receive extensive training on how to phrase their questions to their advantage.  No matter how natural and friendly their conversation is, rest assured that they are following a carefully designed script.  What they want to do is to pin you down to a version of the events that are favorable to their case and harmful to yours. 

Let’s stop and think about the types of things that might come up if you choose to give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster.  You will probably still be in a state of shock from the accident.  You might be on pain medications and still not comfortable with what has just happened to you.  Do you think that you are at your best to give a statement about what happened?  Also, it is extremely common for some of your medical problems to still be unknown or masked by other problems.  For example, assume that during the accident you hit your head on the window and suffered a serious cut on your head.  You might mention to the adjuster that the stitches are healing nicely and you don’t think you will have long term problems.  But what about the neck and back pain that might set in the following week as a result of the impact?  If you try to bring this pain up later, the adjuster will pull out the statement where you said there would be no “long term problems.”  They will then accuse you of being dishonest about your neck and back problems.  This situation will be very difficult to overcome later.  This is precisely the reason they will try to pin you down with a recorded statement.  They want to minimize your damages from the start and hold you to the small version of your injuries.

You are under no obligation to give a recorded statement to anyone at this stage of the proceedings.  We highly recommend that you consult with a qualified attorney before deciding.  The choice of whether or not to give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster is, however, your decision.  If you decide to give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Write down the name, phone number and address of the insurance adjustor.
  • Record the call or take very detailed notes.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Do not volunteer any information.  Only answer what they ask.
  • Do not get pinned down with absolutes.  Do not give exact times, distances, speed, etc… Make sure you use the word “approximately” when giving this type of information.
  • Do not admit fault.  The concept of fault can be pretty complex in an accident case.
  • If you do not understand the question, ask for it to be rephrased.
  • “I don’t remember” is a perfectly acceptable answer.
  • Be aware that the adjuster will try to tell you that the statement is meant to help you.  It isn’t.
  • Do not give long, narrative answers.
  • Be detailed when describing your injuries.  When finished, make sure you say that that is all you can think of now, but there might be other things you are forgetting.
  • Do not sign anything.
  • Do not agree to sign a medical release.  They will use this to go through your entire medical history, looking for pre-existing problems that they can use to deny your claim.

If you want to ask some questions of your own, ask the adjuster “Is true that people who hire an attorney are more likely to receive a higher settlement that someone who tries to settle on his or her own?” I can almost guarantee the adjustor will tell you “no”, even though he or she knows that the actual answer is “yes.”  A major study by the insurance industry found that the average claim of someone who was represented by an attorney in an automobile case was 3.28 times greater than someone who did not hire an attorney, even after subtracting the attorney’s fee.  The adjuster is very aware of this fact, which is the main reason they will try to get you to settle as soon as possible, without bringing in an attorney.

If you have been involved in an automobile, truck or motorcycle accident, you do not have to face the insurance adjusters on your own. At The O’Keefe Firm, we will be happy to review your case at no cost and see if we can help you through this difficult time.