When you're injured in an accident, whether it be a car crash or a slip and fall, the first question is usually who is legally liable for the accident. This is typically when the insurance company of each party will become involved. Once an accident is reported to an insurance company, it will open its own investigation to determine which party was at fault.
More often than not, this means that you may receive a call from the other party's insurance company. If you're receiving phone calls from an opposing insurance company, you may be wondering how you should deal with it. The short answer? You don't.
While the opposing insurance company can legally call you for information, you are not legally obligated to speak with the other insurance company's representative. In fact, doing so can irreparably harm your case.
Risks of Speaking with the Opposing Insurance Company
Put simply, insurance companies are invested in protecting the financial interests of themselves. Not their clients. They do so by denying as many claims as possible, and working to negotiate the lowest settlement possible for the others. After an accident, the insurance companies of all parties involved will investigate the case. They do this for two reasons:
- If parties shared fault, the insurance company will try to apportion the degree of fault.
- If a victim is establishing damages, the insurance company may make an offer to settle the case.
Oftentimes, the initial amount offered by the insurance company is less than the actual amount of damages owed to the victim. While some insurance companies attempt to contact a victim before they have a chance to seek counsel from an experienced personal injury attorney, other insurance companies call a victim in order to unearth information they can use against them.
During a phone call with an insurance adjuster, the adjuster will often attempt to extract information they can use to disprove the case. This can involve facts about the accident or the injuries incurred. Anything said over the phone to the opposing insurance company can serve as a basis for refusing to pay you anything, or reduce the value of your claim.
What Do I Do if the Company Calls Me?
If you are receiving phone calls from the opposing insurance company, it is paramount that you forward the calls along to either your own insurance company, or ideally, a qualified personal injury attorney. The insurance company is very well aware that most accident victims are not experienced in the claims process, and will attempt to take advantage of your naiveté. A knowledgeable lawyer will understand which information to discuss with the opposing insurance company, and will be able to navigate around the multiple traps they may set up.
If you're unsure what information is advisable to share with an insurance company, it is best not to say anything at all until you can receive clarification from either your own insurance company or your attorney. In general, the following tips can keep you in the clear while speaking to an opposing insurance company.
Tips for Speaking with an Adjuster
1. Remain Pleasant: It is very understandable if you are angry about your accident, or annoyed at the persistence of an adjuster who just keeps on calling. However, taking your aggression out on the insurance adjuster will be of no help, and may in fact hinder your case. Remain calm and polite.
2. Identify the Person Calling: If an individual is calling you about your case, be sure to ask their name, address, and telephone number as well as what insurance company they are with and who they represent.
3. Restrict Personal Information: You can share your full name, address, and telephone number with an insurance adjuster. But personal information such as your work place, your schedule, and your income are off limits.
4. Avoid Phrases Like "I'm Fine": When an insurance adjuster asks something like, "How are you feeling today?" refrain from answering with canned phrases such as, "I'm fine." While it sounds like a minor detail, the insurance company can use this to negate your injury claims, saying you're not as injured as you claim to be.
5. Avoid Injury-Related Talks Altogether: Never discuss injuries with an adjuster. Some injuries don't present themselves immediately, and minor injuries may be more serious than expected. What you feel can easily change in a few days, and the details of what you mention in the moment can be used against you.
6. Do Not Speculate About What Happened: Other than basic, objective details about the accident, such as the date, location it occurred, or witnesses, do not discuss details of the accident. Accidentally saying the wrong thing or saying too much can give the insurance adjuster what they need to dismiss your claim.
7. Decline A Recorded Statement: Above all, refuse to give a recorded statement. You have no legal obligation to be recorded, and it is against the law for an adjuster to record you without permission. Forgetting to say something important or describing something incompletely in a recording means that you may not be able to correct or expand upon what you have said. Firmly decline, and inform the adjuster that you will provide a thorough written correspondence to the company.
8. Give Them Your Attorney's Number: If an opposing insurance company is calling you, politely refer them to your attorney. This will nip any potential conflict in the bud.
Hiring an Attorney to Protect Your Rights
If you've been injured in an accident that was not your fault, you deserve to be compensated for your damages. Unfortunately, conveying the wrong information to the opposing insurance company over the phone can seriously damage your case. Even as the victim of an accident, your words can be used against you, resulting in your claim being dismissed or any potential offer drastically lowered.
If the opposing insurance company is calling you, it is always best to err on the side of caution and direct them to speak with your personal injury attorney. Contact Weinstein Legal today, and leave the insurance company calls to us.