The general answer to the question of whether you should give a statement to the insurance company after a truck accident is “no.” Under the limited circumstances where you might consider giving a statement, you will need to prepare it very carefully to avoid damaging your claim.
Reasons to Avoid Giving a Statement
”You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you” – in settlement negotiations and during a civil lawsuit. Don’t ever forget that, because it is just as true in settlement negotiations or a trial as it is when someone is being questioned by the police about a crime they are suspected of committing. The following are some of the main dangers of giving a statement to an insurance company concerning a truck accident:
- It might not be accurate: If you give a statement shortly after the accident (and you can be sure that the insurance company will seek one as soon as possible after the accident), your head might not be clear for physical or psychological reasons. Once you make a statement, however, it will be difficult to persuade anyone if you attempt to modify it later.
- Your statement might contradict evidence that you uncover later: You might, for example, underestimate the extent of your injuries due to late-breaking symptoms. Late-breaking symptoms are quite common in cases of whiplash and traumatic brain injury, for example, and these are very common consequences of truck accidents. Alternatively, you might unfairly blame yourself for the accident because you failed to realize that your vehicle malfunctioned due to a defective auto part – until after you have given a statement.
- Your statement might be too brief to give an accurate picture of the accident. When you try to supplement your statement later, your additions might be treated as alterations that you came up with simply to pad the value of your claim.
What the Insurance Company Will Do with Your Statement
You can be sure that the insurance company will thoroughly process your statement in accordance with a routine procedure. The following are some of the actions they are likely to take:
- They may compare your statement with any other statement you may have given (to anyone, including the police, your doctor, or their attorney during a lawsuit deposition) looking for contradictions and inconsistencies or anything that can be portrayed as such. Although inconsistencies are quite common even when a claim is legitimate, these can be ruthlessly exploited by insurance companies during settlement negotiations and in court.
- They may compare your statement with any physical evidence that they may gain access to, such as a medical report.
- They may use your statement against you in court. A lawyer will seize upon any inconsistency and magnify its significance as much as possible, to try to discredit you and your account of the accident.
If You Do Give a Statement…
Your own insurance policy may require you to give your insurance company a statement as a condition of coverage. Moreover, in some cases, you might agree to give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company. Nevertheless, you are within your rights to delay your statement until you have spoken with your lawyer or are in the presence of your lawyer. Don’t let the insurance company pressure you into giving a statement before you speak to a lawyer.
Observe the following principles when giving a statement:
- There is no such thing as a casual conversation with an insurance adjuster while your case is pending. Anything you say to the insurance adjuster, right down to your comments about the weather, should be considered a “statement.” Insurance adjusters will use the guise of chit-chat to lull you into making damaging statements.
- Don’t “relax” too much, although you may be encouraged to by the insurance adjuster. Remember that the insurance company (even your own insurance company) is your adversary, not a “good neighbor.”
- Obtain the name, address, and telephone number of the person you are talking to as well as the identity of the insurance company they work for. Refuse to speak to them without this information.
- Avoid certain topics. Don’t discuss your work (other than the identity of your employer), your schedule, or your income. You may be asked about this later at a deposition or trial. However, there is no need for you to discuss this until a formal lawsuit has already been filed and your statement has been cleared by your lawyer.
- Restrict the information you provide, regardless of insurance company pressure to do otherwise. Appropriate information includes when and where the accident happened, who was involved in the accident, and who witnessed it. It is always appropriate for you to refuse to provide detailed information “until my lawyer’s investigation has been completed.”
- Do not give blanket permission for the insurance company to view your medical records. They will use this as a “fishing expedition,” looking for a pre-existing injury they can blame your condition on (instead of the accident) or trying to find some other way to gain an advantage over you. Any medical records you release should be strictly limited and cleared by your lawyer first.
- Don’t discuss the details of your injuries. You can provide this information later through your doctor or through a medical report. Don’t even discuss your own subjective impressions. “OK” can be a dangerous answer to the seemingly harmless question, “How are you feeling today?”
- Don’t guess if you are unsure, and never, ever lie. To make either of these mistakes is to fall into a trap that will spring on you sooner or later. If you are caught in a contradiction, even a small one, your truthful statements will be cast into doubt.
- Don’t give “soft agreement to anything they suggest that you are not certain of. “I guess so” is an example of a “soft agreement” that can tie your hands later.
- Take notes, either during the interview or immediately afterwards.
- Above all, contact an experienced truck accident lawyer and consult with him before your interview.
A Short List of Insurance Company Tricks
The following is an abbreviated list of tricks that insurance companies like to use during interviews, settlement negotiations, and behind your back:
- Attempting to blame the accident on you, or to attribute at least some fault to you. You can be certain that they will try this one. Their payout (and your recovery) can be reduced by blaming you, even if the accident was mostly the other party’s fault.
- Misleading you on the terms of the insurance policy, especially with respect to their coverage exclusions, by taking advantage of the confusing legal jargon in the insurance policy. Don’t worry, we speak fluent “legalese.”
- Stalling you with numerous small delays, hoping to frustrate you into accepting a small settlement or lull you into missing the statute of limitations deadline to file a lawsuit.
- Monitoring your social network accounts looking for “evidence” that your injuries are not as severe as you are claiming. Another tactic is to spy on your social network accounts, gather certain information about you, conceal the fact that they’ve been spying on you, and then try to bait you into saying something that is inconsistent with what your social networking account reveals.
Remember, social network posts can be used as evidence in court. While your case is pending, set your social networking accounts to private and don’t accept friend requests from anyone you don’t know – it could be an insurance company investigator.
- If you are claiming under workers’ compensation, the insurance company may claim that your injury was not work-related.
- Using trick questions. One favorite is to press you for the exact time of the accident, down to the last minute. And if you comply, then they come back and assert that the accident was your fault because you were checking the time instead of watching the road.
- Gaslighting you: Don’t ever agree, or appear to agree, that your memory is anything less than perfect, because it will be used to cast doubt upon your entire account of the accident. This technique can be used particularly effectively if you suffered a head injury, even if your mind is perfectly lucid. This is because the very nature of your injury will make it easier to cast doubt on your memory and judgment.
- Attempting to intimidate you by setting an arbitrary deadline on a “take it or leave it” basis. The insurance company doesn’t get to set the claim deadline, the Connecticut statute of limitations does.
- “Lowballing” you with a grossly inadequate offer and pressuring you to settle immediately before your head is clear or while you are in financial distress. Truck accident injuries tend to generate high damages, and insurance companies naturally don’t like this.
If the Insurance Company Abuses Your Statement: The Good Faith Rule
If you do give a statement and proceed to make some errors that the insurance company then exploits to your detriment, all is not necessarily lost. Insurance companies are required to negotiate in “good faith.” While this may sound vague, its meaning has been clarified through court cases, and an insurance company can get into trouble for violating the good faith principle – they might even have to pay you punitive damages in addition to your initial claim.
You can use the threat of asserting an insurance company bad faith claim to gain leverage in settlement negotiations – at least if your claim is credible. Asserting such a claim could be complex and time-consuming, however. It is best to simply get it right the first time by refusing to give a statement or by observing the foregoing principles when you do give a statement.
We Can Help You Preserve Your Claim
There are a hundred different ways that you might unintentionally damage your truck accident claim. We are familiar with all of them, and we can make sure that you avoid them. Call Berkowitz Hanna today or contact us online for a free case consultation. We serve clients from all over Connecticut from our offices in Stamford, Bridgeport, Danbury, and Shelton. We work on a contingency system, which means that if we don’t win, you won’t owe us a dime.