In the immediate moments, hours, and days following a car accident you might feel overwhelmed, frustrated, tired, and in pain from the injuries you have sustained.
This is not the optimal time to be engaged in conversations with third parties regarding the accident that occurred. However, this will not stop insurance companies from attempting to speak with you.
Virtually every car accident constitutes an event covered by at least one insurance policy, and often several policies. What you say to any insurance company following a car accident can have significant implications for your legal rights and financial interests, including whether those insurance companies pay you compensation for your accident-related injuries and losses.
Anyone involved in motor vehicle collisions must take great care when speaking to an insurer following an accident. Let’s look at some of the important things to consider.
Legal Representation and Your Car Accident
To start, most car accident victims can benefit from contacting an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after suffering injuries in a crash.
One immediate way an experienced attorney can crash victims is by taking over all communications with insurance companies about the accident. In filling this role, attorneys provide a buffer between victims and insurance adjusters. That buffer gives victims the time and space they need to heal from their injuries. It also protects the victims’ legal interests against tactics insurance companies may use to try to avoid financial responsibility for an accident.
The tips below address circumstances in which victims do not have an attorney who can communicate with insurance companies on their behalf. However, we strongly urge any car accident victim to opt for having an attorney take over interactions with insurers.
Two Insurance Policies: Yours and Theirs
In the typical two-car car accident scenario, at least two insurance policies usually come into play: your own auto insurance, and the other driver’s auto insurance.
Representatives of both insurance companies may want to talk to you. The biggest distinction between them, discussed in more detail below, is that you may have an obligation to speak with representatives of your own insurance company, whereas you likely have no obligation whatsoever to speak with representatives of the other company.
However, regardless of which insurance company you interact with, one basic rule applies across-the-board: although insurance company representatives may seem friendly and caring, they have (at best) mixed motives when it comes to helping you. They work for a company that wants to protect its bottom line. Their goal, at least in part, is for their employer to pay you the least amount of money necessary to resolve your claim.
Speaking to Your Car Insurance Company
Car insurance companies want their policyholders to contact them right away to report an accident. Some go as far as to encourage their customers to file a claim from the accident scene. However, while instant reporting of an accident serves the insurance company’s interest, it may not serve yours.
You likely have an obligation to report the accident to your insurance company in a matter of days. Before you do so, however, take a moment to learn about your rights and obligations by contacting an experienced attorney who can read and explain your insurance policy.
Typically, you must report the accident within a fixed amount of time. Do not give your insurance company a recorded statement or provide details about the accident, at least not until you consult a car accident lawyer.
Failure to notify your insurance company of an accident within the timeframe required by your insurer can result in an outright denial of your car accident claim and could risk the availability of future coverage with the company.
What Information Should You Provide Your Insurance Company When Reporting the Accident?
From the outset of your call with your own insurance company’s representative, you should make clear that you are only notifying them of the accident and providing preliminary information, and that you will not get into the details of the accident or providing a recorded statement at this time. You should also take note and jot down the name and role of the insurance company representative with whom you speak.
The limited information you can and should provide to your insurance company on this initial phone call is:
- Your basic personal identifying information (Name, address, email, policy number);
- The identifying information and insurance information of the other drivers or passengers involved in the accident; and
- The date and location of the accident.
Insurance company representatives may try to give you a sense of comfort or security when you contact them. This may even seem natural to you. After all, you are their customer, and you’ve just gone through a traumatic event.
Do not let down your guard, however. The insurance representative tries to put you at ease to get you talking about the circumstances of the accident, who caused it, what you could have done to avoid it, and the nature or severity of your injuries.
Insurance representatives do not ask for these details out of the goodness of their hearts, but rather, they hope to uncover information to use in limiting the amount of money their employer will have to pay to you or others involved in the accident.
Remember, your job at this point is not to chat or answer questions. Your job is to give the basic facts necessary to put your insurance company on notice that the accident happened. That’s all. Once you have communicated that basic information, end the call, no matter how rude it feels.
If a representative of your own insurance company insists that you provide a recorded statement or detailed information, tell them you will get back to them soon and contact an experienced car accident attorney.
Speaking to Their Insurance Company
Unlike speaking with your own auto insurance company, you likely have no obligation whatsoever to speak with the other driver’s insurance company; at least not right now.
But that will not stop them from trying. In virtually all cases in which that happens, you can benefit from leaving all communications with the other driver’s insurance company to your attorney.
The only purpose that the other driver’s insurance company has in speaking with you is to find reasons not to pay you at all, or not to pay you the amount of money you deserve. They have various tactics for trying to get you to talk. They may ask you to give a recorded statement, saying that it will help speed an eventual claim. They may make a settlement offer right-up-front, trying to tempt you into taking far less money than you actually deserve. They may use high-pressure tactics.
Do not fall for any of these tricks. If the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, decline to talk and refer them to your car accident lawyer.
Is There Anything You Should Not Say to an Insurer Following an Accident?
Getting hurt in an accident sets emotions on edge. That’s perfectly natural. Unfortunately, letting emotions guide your interactions with an insurance company can harm your legal and financial rights to receive compensation for your injuries and losses. That’s why you should let a car accident lawyer handle all communications.
Insurance company representatives know this. They count on you feeling upset, and try to exploit your vulnerabilities in a difficult moment to protect their employer. The insurance representative you end up talking to may even have received training in how to get information out of car accident victims like you.
Until you retain counsel, however, protect yourself against an insurance representative taking advantage of you by following these tips.
Do Not Say Anything That Accepts Blame or Sounds Like an Apology
It is instinctual for individuals to say they are sorry or to fault themselves for a car accident. This is especially true of accidents in which others suffered injuries
In speaking with an insurance representative, however, you must suppress that instinct. Never admit fault in any way, not even casually, in a conversation with an insurance company. Do not take blame. Do not second guess your own actions. Do not apologize.
Saying anything—even something you don’t really mean—that implies you bear the blame for an accident can constitute a costly mistake that will have nothing but a negative impact on your claim and case.
The truth of the matter is, many factors typically contribute to the cause of a car accident, and it is unlikely that you know enough about them to say who bears the blame. Experienced lawyers for car accident victims know that finding fault for a car accident usually requires an investigation and careful weighing of the evidence.
Even in situations where you may feel that there was an error in judgment on your part; evidence may ultimately show that the primary cause of the accident was another individual or circumstance. In many cases, crash reports can take up to 10 days to be made available by law enforcement.
Do Not Say You “Feel Fine” or That You Are “Okay”
When someone asks how you are feeling it is an often automatic response to say “I’m fine” or “I feel good.” These innocent, offhand statements may go unnoticed in ordinary conversation, but they can have significant implications if you say them to an insurance company representative when discussing your car accident injuries. Tell an insurance adjuster that you “feel fine” or “okay” after a crash, and you can be sure the adjuster will use it against you.
Plus, you may lack the ability to judge your own condition. It is not uncommon for adrenaline to mask symptoms of injuries immediately following a car accident. You may not yet know the extent of the injuries you suffered, the full treatment those injuries may require, or their impacts on your daily life.
Decline to answer questions regarding your physical or mental state following an accident until you have sought advice from an experienced car accident lawyer and medical team.
Do Not Talk About the Impacts of the Accident on Your Life
It can be easy to begin to complain about the impacts the accident has caused on your life such as missed work, rehabilitation, or treatment you may be receiving. Never provide these details to an insurance company in your initial conversation with them. If the insurance company wants more information, refer it to your lawyer.
You may not yet know how the accident will change your daily routine or cause challenges or difficulties in your life. Discuss these issues with an experienced car accident attorney first.
Do Not Speculate About What Happened
There are always various versions of the same story and what you may think occurred in the accident may not be the most accurate version. It takes time to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and truly understand what occurred leading up to the accident. Do not provide any opinions on what happened or what you think could have led to the accident.
Do Not Extend the Conversation Beyond What Is Necessary
The longer the conversation with an insurance company extends, the more likely it is you will provide unnecessary information that could harm your legal and financial rights. Insurance companies train their representatives to ask open-ended questions to encourage you to keep talking. Make a strong effort in your communications to answer questions quickly and to the point; providing only the necessary information that is required of you to get the claims process underway.
When Is It Too Late to Get an Attorney?
Even in cases where an insurance company denied your claim, you may seek the advice and assistance of a car accident attorney. Get the help of a lawyer as early as possible in the claims process, but if you find yourself further down the line and getting nowhere in your claim, contact an experienced car accident injury attorney to explore your legal options.