It will not take long after a car accident for your phone to ring with inquiries from other interested parties or the at-fault parties’ insurance companies. Insurers frequently attempt to contact accident victims just hours after an accident or as soon as the next day. What you say to an insurer during this time can and will affect your case. Before you speak to an insurance representative, take the time to understand your rights and what you should and should not say.
Why Must You Speak to Your Insurer After a Crash?
The last thing that many victims want to do after an accident is to discuss the events with their insurance company. While you don’t necessarily have to share all of the traumatic details of your accident with your insurance company, you do have certain obligations as an insured that you must abide by. Under the terms of most insurance policies, an insurer agrees to notify the insurance company when an accident occurs.
Even if you feel confident that you played no part in causing your accident, you still face a contractual obligation to notify your insurer that an accident has taken place. Failure to comply with notification requirements in your policy could result in a denial of your claim, cancellation of your coverage, or increases in your policy premiums.
When providing notice to your insurance company, however, you do not have to make any statements on the details of what happened in your accident. While you must notify the insurance company of the accident, you should not explain the details of the accident, your injuries, or other potential damages at this time. Your lawyer can do that for you.
What Should You Not Say to Your Insurer?
It can prove difficult to speak with an insurance company representative. Before you make or accept a call from the insurance company, understand that the adjuster will likely try to get as much information from you as possible. You have the information that they want, and you must remain in control of the conversation at all times. Do not offer up more information than you feel necessary, and be purposeful in what you say and do not say.
Do Not Apologize
Never apologize for an accident or for another event that has occurred. Many individuals feel a sense of responsibility when bad things happen and want to rectify the situation. This is a big mistake that can prove costly when you speak with your insurance company. Adjusters can and will use any apology you make as an admission of fault and attempt to use that information as grounds to outright deny your claim or reduce liability.
In reality, you may not know the extent of how an accident occurred. You have your perspective of the events, but many different factors could have contributed to your accident, including the condition of other drivers and their actions or inactions. Don’t attempt to speculate on the factors that lead to an accident or how you sustained your injuries.
Do Not Say You Have No Injuries
When you speak to an insurance representative, that representative will ask you about how you feel and any injuries that you’ve sustained. Do not say that you did not suffer any injuries or that you feel fine at any point during the call. While some physical injuries become apparent in the moments after an accident, many other injuries can take time to develop and for you to discover.
After an accident, you may feel banged up and sore overall, and it will take some time to figure out what injuries you have suffered and what treatment you may need going forward. If you tell an insurance representative that you have no injuries, only to discover in the days that follow that you have indeed suffered bodily damage, you could put your recovery for those injuries in jeopardy. In the worst-case scenario, the insurance company will deny your injury claim, and at best, you may face unnecessary delays and complications in your case.
Do Not Provide Any Details on Your Care or Impacts on Your Life
Based on the information in a police report or information provided by another driver, the insurance company may already have insight into some of your injuries. The insurance representative will likely attempt to open up a line of questions as to the details of your injuries, such as treatment, your providers, and how much work you have missed. Do not answer these questions; instead, explain that you will provide the information once you have a better understanding of your injuries.
Do Not Offer Your Opinion
You may feel tempted to explain your side of the story or your perception of how the accident occurred to the insurance company. Do not provide any opinion as to what may have led to the accident. An insurance representative will allow you to talk as much as you like during a call, in the hopes of discovering some piece of information that will show you contributed to the accident or to your own injuries in some way. You should refrain from providing any information on how or what led to the accident.
Do Not Provide an Official Statement or Give Permission for the Insurance Company To Record Your Conversation
At the outset of your phone call, the insurance representative may pause to ask permission to record the call. You should always say no. The only purpose for the insurance company to record communications with you is to attempt to use the information against you down the road. If an insurance company representative requests that you make an official statement, you should politely decline and say that you don’t feel ready to provide a statement at this time.
Do Not Accept a Settlement Offer Immediately
If an insurance company can clearly determine fault for an accident, the company may offer a settlement rather quickly. Insurance companies want to close their claims quickly and for as little money as possible. Do not offer any acceptance of a settlement without further guidance on your case. Quick settlement offers by insurance companies often don’t reflect the true value of your case. The insurance company hopes you will take the offer at first glance, so the company may close the case with minimal losses.
However, taking the first settlement offer can put you at a disadvantage. In the days after an accident, you do not yet know the extent of the injuries you have suffered or how much those injuries will affect your daily life. Once you accept a settlement, you cannot go back to demand more money from an insurer, even if you discover new injuries or disabilities that stem from the accident. Long-term injuries can cause numerous medical expenses and have far-reaching impacts on your current and future ability to earn wages. Do not accept a settlement until you have an understanding of your situation, your rights, and the total losses that you will sustain from the accident.
What Information Should You Provide to Your Insurer?
A call with your insurer will take effort on your part to navigate and avoid areas of discussion that don’t benefit you at this time. You should provide certain bits of information to your insurer in your initial phone call after an accident, which we discuss below.
Information of All Parties Involved in the Accident
You should notify the insurance company of all the parties involved in the car accident. This includes not only yourself, but also any passengers in the vehicle with you and the drivers and passengers of any other vehicles involved. Keep this information readily available. The crash report provided by the law enforcement agency that arrived on the scene may include this information.
Basic Information on the Car Accident
While you should refrain at all times from a discussion on how the accident happened or what led to the accident, you should share certain necessary information with your insurance company, including:
- When did the accident happen? The date and approximate time at which the accident occurred.
- Where did the accident occur? You can provide the exact location of the accident, including the address or approximate mile marker or intersection where the impact occurred.
- What type of accident is it? The insurance representative may ask you the type of accident that occurred; often, you can explain this best by specifying the area(s) of your vehicle that sustained damage in the collision.
- What vehicles were involved in the accident? In addition to information about the individuals involved in the accident, you should also provide information on the vehicles involved, such as the make, model, and color of the vehicles, as well as identifiers, such as the license plate number and vehicle identification numbers, if available to you.
How Can Your Statements to Your Insurer Affect Your Case?
Many accident victims underestimate the impact a phone call or communication with your insurer can ultimately have in your case. Most people are careful in conversations with opposing insurance companies, but you may let down your guard with your own insurance company mistakenly under the belief that it will operate in your best interests. Like most for-profit businesses, insurance companies work to further their own best interest, not yours. They have a contractual obligation to you based on your relationship with them as an insured, but they will do everything in their power to pay out as little as possible in your claim and even deny your claim if the opportunity arises.
Every message, phone call, or other communication between you and any representative of an insurance company can constitute evidence in your case. These individuals do this each day and will approach you in a friendly and seemingly cooperative manner to get as much information as they can.
Protect yourself and your potential claim for damages by saying as little as possible. Whenever possible, answer the claims representative with simple yes and no responses. If you feel unsure of how to answer a question, politely decline to answer at this time rather than risk providing the wrong information or ammunition that the insurance company can use against you during your injury claim. Then refer the claims adjuster to your lawyer.
Should You Speak to the Other Party’s Insurance Company?
While you have a responsibility to notify your insurance company after an accident, you face no similar obligation to engage in any communications with the other party’s insurance company. It may call you and insist that you respond, but you should not speak to any representative of the other party’s insurance. Once you have retained a lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will communicate with all interested parties on your behalf and relay all of the necessary information to you.
Do You Need a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
Hiring a personal injury attorney after a car accident can provide many benefits. Your lawyer can serve as an intermediary with insurance companies and at-fault parties throughout your claim. Once you retain an attorney, all parties must divert their communications to your attorney and away from you. Your insurance
company, the opposing party’s insurance company, and any other interested third parties must direct all communications, requests, or offers of settlement through your attorney. This can provide you with much-needed relief in that the lawyer on your behalf understands how to deal with these parties while protecting your legal rights and interests.
If you or a loved one sustains an injury in a motor vehicle accident, contact an auto accident attorney as soon after the accident as possible. Don’t hesitate to contact an attorney, as it pays to act quickly when filing an accident claim. An experienced lawyer can provide you with a free consultation on your case, during which you can explain the details of your accident, ask questions about your legal options, and determine your eligibility to pursue compensation for the full cost of your injuries.