You’ve been in a car wreck in Alabama, you still hurt and are recovering, and now you start getting calls from the insurance adjuster for the person that hit you. What should you do?
There is nothing necessarily wrong with talking with the insurance adjuster. They are usually very nice to you, which is obviously in their best interest. Their goal is to settle the claim for what they call a “reasonable amount” or to “reasonably compensate you for your injuries.” The problem is that our experience here in Birmingham and through out the state of Alabama is that insurance companies often have a far different idea of what is fair or reasonable compensation for your personal injuries than you do or than your lawyer will.
Inevitably, the adjuster will want to take a statement from you “just to document their file.” We are usually reluctant to let them take a recorded statement of our clients. If it is truly just to document the file, then they shouldn’t have a problem letting you take a recorded statement of their insured for their file. We have never had one take us up on this request.
In truth, they are trying to pin you down to a recorded statement in hopes that you might say something that doesn’t check out or is inconsistent with something that you previously said at the scene or might later say in deposition or at trial.
If you do give a recorded statement, the adjuster will likely ask you some background questions about your medical history, employment, etc. They will then ask you questions about the car wreck, i.e., where you were going, how fast you were driving, what you saw, what happened, etc. They will usually finish by asking about your injuries. During the statement they will try to pin you down to the exact story. And be sure, they will hold you to this in the future.
If you give a statement, the adjuster is going to look very critically at your claim including your statement, the accident report and the medical bills and records to see if there is anything they can find to discount your claim. They will compare your statement to their insured’s version of what happened and whatever other records they can obtain.
If you have had any preexisting back or other injuries, they will significantly discount the value of your case regardless of whether you were having no problems before the car wreck or automobile accident. If you say anything that doesn’t check out with their insured’s version, they will also discount your claim.
In truth, there is no advantage to them in evaluating your claim for settlement purposes in taking a recorded statement rather than just speaking with you or taking written notes. If they are pushing you to do so, we recommend you contact an attorney prior to giving a recorded statement.
We’ve never seen a claim settle for more money where an injured party has given a statement. In fact, we see quite the opposite. You should always remember that the insurance adjuster represents the insurance company. He or she is not your friend and does not keep their job or get raises by paying out lots of money on claims. They get these things by saving the insurance company money. If you do feel like you need to give a statement, consult an attorney before doing so.