In the days after a car accident, the other driver’s insurance company will contact you to discuss what happened. If you were injured in the accident and are seeking compensation through the other driver’s insurance, the company will also send you documents in the mail.
Q: Should you get a lawyer?
A: The smartest decision you can make after a car accident is to get a lawyer. Then, when the other driver’s insurance adjuster calls you, you can tell him to talk to your lawyer concerning the accident, not you. If you receive any forms in the mail, you can consult with your lawyer before signing anything to make sure that you don’t sign away your rights.
Q: Why will an insurance adjuster phone you?
A: The reason that an insurance adjuster will contact you on the phone is to request that you provide him with a recorded statement. When you don’t have much experience or knowledge of what’s going on, this seems like a reasonable request. The problem is how the insurance adjuster will use this recorded statement. Since the adjuster is working for the other driver’s insurance company, he is working against you. He doesn’t want to figure out what is a fair amount of compensation for the damages you suffered in the accident. All he wants to do is obtain sufficient evidence to either dismiss your claim entirely or reduce the amount that his company ends up paying you.
Don’t assume that you’ll be fine providing a recorded statement because the accident wasn’t your fault and you’re only going to tell the truth. Insurance adjusters know how to get the evidence they need against you. Keep in mind that this is their job, and they look for ways to get other driver’s claims reduced every day. If you’re anything like the average driver, you probably don’t get in many car accidents, which means you have little experience dealing with insurance adjusters. You’re in their world, which puts you at a significant disadvantage.
There is no way that making a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance adjuster will help your claim, but there are plenty of ways that it can hurt your claim. With those potential results, you should always decline a request for a recorded statement. If you have a lawyer, you can refer the adjuster to him. The benefit of having a lawyer is that what your lawyer says to the adjuster can’t be used against you later, because you’re not the one providing the information. If you tell the insurance adjuster that you were speeding, they can use it. If your lawyer says that you were speeding, it doesn’t matter, because he is a third party who didn’t see what happened. No lawyer would actually do that, but it’s an example of the protection you have when your lawyer discusses the accident instead of you.
Q: What if you receive a mail from an insurance company?
A: If you receive something in the mail that the other insurance company wants you to sign and return, ask your lawyer first. If it’s a medical authorization release, which is common after an injury claim, signing this will give the insurance adjuster the right to look into your entire medical history. Not only is this an invasion of your privacy, but it also gives the adjuster the opportunity to look for any previous symptoms you’ve demonstrated that he could claim are evidence of a preexisting condition that you had before the accident. This helps him reduce your compensation.
Q: Why shouldn't you sign a medical authorization?
A: You should never sign a medical authorization release, because the insurance adjuster doesn’t need to see your entire medical history. He only needs to see documentation pertinent to your injury claim, such as a report made by a doctor who examined you after the accident. Your lawyer can select the appropriate documents to send so you don’t have to.
Q: Should you sign anything for the driver's insurance company?
A: You’re under no obligation to say or sign anything for the other driver’s insurance company after an accident. It’s much better for you if you avoid doing anything before you’ve spoken with a lawyer. Insurance companies convince drivers to incriminate themselves or sign away their rights all the time.