One of the reason that personal injury attorneys rush to get to accident
victims is not only out of competition with other personal injury lawyers,
but also to speak to the client before they speak to the insurance company,
including their own. Clients do not realize that statements made to ANYONE
other than their attorney - including their own insurance company - can
be obtained by an adverse insurance company and used against them. The
only communication that a client can comfortably feel will not be used
against them is one made to their attorney.
Moreover, sometimes your claim ends up being against your own insurance
company - if, for example the other driver's insurance company disclaims
coverage. That can happen at any stage of a claim or litigation and the
insurance company can and will use every statement by you against you
to defeat your claim. Therefore it is essential that personal injury clients
speak to their attorneys after an accident (which is a privileged communication)
and let the attorney speak to the insurance company.
Even if a client must speak to an insurance company after an accident,
there are several specific things that a person should not say:
1. Not only should you not admit responsibility for the accident, you should
not apologize for that can be used as an admission of liability.
2. You should not provide any information on your injuries or treatment
- you may say that you are "ok" to mean that you have "no
broken bones," but can be interpreted as "no injuries" at all.
3. Understand that the insurance company is reviewing every action and
statement after the accident to see if you were "truly" injured
and, if so, how badly. Insurance companies are also reviewing the facts
of the accident to see if they can deny coverage entirely.
4. You should not guess to try to answer any question that you do not know
how to answer. This includes, how the accident took place, what the other
driver was doing (or not doing), or provide any time, speed or distance
answers - providing a number that is off even by a little can come back
to haunt you. The best response is always "I don't know"
if you really don't know.
5. Generally, do not give a statement as to how the accident took place.
Even if it is consistent with what you say later during a court case,
I have seen an insurance company argue that the use of different words
or phrases was an inconsistency evidencing dishonesty.
Those are the major issues to avoid, but overall there is no value at all
in providing a statement prior to speaking with a personal injury attorney.
At Simeone & Miller, LLP,
we provide free consultations, so call us after your accident before speaking to an insurance company.