The Recorded Statement:
A Trap for the Unwary
Youâ€™ve been in an accident with a large truck that wasnâ€™t your fault. One day shortly thereafter, the adjuster for the insurance company of truck driver who hit you calls on the telephone. She wants you to give a recorded statement telling her how the accident happened and provide her some personal information. She says she wants to help you, and you certainly need help. All she needs before she can pay you is a brief statement to â€œfirm up liabilityâ€. Sheâ€™s pleasant and seems so nice. You have nothing to hide , do you? And you want to be helpful.
So what could be wrong with answering her questions on tape? Plenty!
As a general rule, you should not give a recorded statement concerning a motor vehicle accident to anyone without the advice of an attorney. You shouldnâ€™t give an oral statement either. To understand why it is not in your best interest to make a statement, put yourself in the insurance companyâ€™s shoes. An insurance company is in business to make money for its shareholders. Every dollar it pays out in claims to people like you is a dollar lost to the insurance companyâ€™s bottom line. Therefore, job #1 for every insurance company employee is to reduce the amount paid out in claims, and that includes your claim.
To reduce claims paid, the insurance company must deny claims made. To do this, company employees will look for reasons to deny your claim. They may use your recorded statement for this purpose. How?
Insurance company employees will compare the statement you gave them with other statements you have made including statements you gave an investigating police officer or statements you made during your deposition in a lawsuit arising from the accident. Where they find inconsistencies in your multiple statements, and this is not unusual when someone tells the story of his accident more than once, sometimes weeks or months apart, the company will claim you lied. The company may deny your claim as a result.
Insurance company employees will ask questions worded in such a way that they trap or trick you into responses that hurt your case. You may not even realize this is happening at the time. They may try to push or bully you into agreeing to facts you arenâ€™t certain are completely accurate. You respond â€œI guess soâ€ just to get the questioner off your back. Unfortunately, that â€œI guess soâ€ can come back to haunt you later.
In a lawsuit, defense counsel can use your recorded statement to cross-examine you at trial or during your deposition. You may not remember exactly what you said in your statement. As a result, you may contradict yourself in some way. Although you think the discrepancy is inconsequential, the defendantâ€™s lawyer will stress the importance of your misstatement to a jury and use it to convince the jury that your testimony is not believable.
The bottom line is that you should never give a recorded statement to an insurance company representative without the advice and guidance of a truck accident attorney . When you turn down the representativeâ€™s request, be courteous but firm. No matter how garrulous and personable they may be when theyâ€™re talking to you, always keep in mind that they are employees of the insurance company and represent only its interests â€“ not yours.
There are exceptions to this general rule when your insurance company asks for a recorded statement. You have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company. Many insurance policies contain contractual provisions that require you to give statements to your own carrier upon request. Even if the policy involved is yours, however, ask your companyâ€™s representative to point out the exact language in the policy that he is relying on to make his request. Remember also that your own insurance company may take a position that is adverse to your best interests. It can use your statement against you. Therefore, think carefully about each and every fact you relate in a statement to your own company. It is always best not to give a recorded statement without the advice and guidance of an attorney.