WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE
SPEAKING WITH AN INSURANCE ADJUSTER
People involved in car accidents are often asked a lot of questions after the incident. Law enforcement may ask a series of questions and take your statement. Emergency responders may ask questions about your injuries and medical history. Even once you are able to return home, you may receive a call from an insurance adjuster asking for details about the crash and who was involved. It all can feel quite overwhelming and leave you wondering if you said too much or too little in the stress of the moment.
At Jose Orihuela, Attorney at Law, I have helped hundreds of accident victims in Houston, South Houston, and Pasadena, Texas deal with these questions following an accident. After meeting with clients, my first course of action will be to notify the insurance companies about my representation. From that moment forward, they can only communicate with you through me. This allows me to take all of the stress and responsibility off of your shoulders in the aftermath of the accident, so you can focus on what matters most — your health and well-being.
The Insurance Adjuster’s Role
Auto insurance companies employ claims adjusters to oversee accident claims. The adjuster handles a variety of different tasks, including scheduling damage inspections, reviewing crash reports, and obtaining medical records for all injured parties. They then assign what they believe is the monetary value of a claim.
One of the first steps in the adjuster’s investigation is interviewing the claimant and any witnesses to the crash, attempting to place any fault possible on someone other than their insured client.
How to Handle a Request for a Statement
As soon as the company knows an insured individual has been involved in a crash, an insurance adjuster will be assigned to investigate the claim. Although adjusters will make it sound like they just want to ask you a few friendly questions, you should consider refusing to make any statement for three important reasons:
The insurer can use your statement against you. Shortly after the accident, you may believe that you were not injured in the crash, only to discover injuries later. If you tell an adjuster early on that you feel okay, that contradiction can be used to question the credibility of your claim.
The insurer can use what you say to reduce compensation. For example, if you admit you were changing the radio station at the time of the crash, the insurer will attempt to assign a percentage of fault to you. Since Texas uses the modified comparative fault theory in auto accidents, assigning any level of fault to you can reduce the amount of compensation you may be eligible to receive.
The adjuster might ask contradictory questions to create inconsistencies in your story. You might be asked the same question in more than one way, and you might answer it a little differently each time. Insurers may attempt to use these inconsistencies to raise doubts about your version of the events of the crash.
If you decide to give the adjuster a statement, there are six things you should always do to try to protect yourself:
Ask that your statement not be recorded. The content of a recorded statement is difficult to deny. The insurance adjuster should ask you for permission to record the interview at the very beginning of the call. Before you answer any other question, tell the adjuster you do not want the interview to be recorded.
Never admit guilt or fault for the crash. Even if you believe you were completely or partially at fault for the crash, you do not have to admit this to the insurance adjuster.
Don’t answer any questions you don’t know the answer to. It’s important to never guess about something just to provide an answer to a question. If you do not know or are not sure, it’s perfectly fine to state that you are unsure.
Don’t volunteer any information that has not been specifically requested. Make the adjuster do the work. Do not help if they fail to ask a question about something.
Keep your answers brief. A simple “yes” or “no” is always best.
Don’t sign anything unless you’ve had an attorney review it first. Signing a statement or a settlement offer is like signing a contract. Never put your name or signature on any documents before first consulting with an attorney.
What Information Will They Ask Me to Provide?
As stated above, the adjuster will typically ask for your permission to record the interview, which you should politely decline. After declining to be interviewed on the record, the adjuster should begin asking you for basic information such as your full name, address, and date of birth. They may then ask a series of mostly leading questions covering areas such as the extent of the damage to any vehicles involved in the crash, details about the weather conditions, the presence of any passengers, whether or not drugs or alcohol was involved, details about the utilization and deployment of safety devices, whether or not evasive actions were taken, details about any injuries sustained, and details about any medical treatment received. They will end by asking if you have anything else to say, to which you should always respond, “no.”
How Experienced Legal Counsel Can Help
I always try to remind my clients that it’s important to remember that the top priority for insurance companies is to pay you as little compensation as they can. That’s why retaining an experienced Houston personal injury attorney is vital when fighting for the best possible outcome in your claim. Once you hire an attorney, all communication with the insurer should go through them. Your attorney will speak for you on your behalf, protecting your rights and advocating for your best interests.
For more than a decade, I have been representing personal injury victims in Houston, Texas and throughout the surrounding areas. I proudly represent clients in Houston, South Houston, Pasadena, Clear Lake, Friendswood, League City, Alvin, Dickinson, Bacliff, Kemah, Seabrook, Santa Fe, and Webster. So if you or someone you know has been injured in an accident is looking for reliable legal counsel, reach out to my firm, Jose Orihuela, Attorney at Law, today for trusted legal guidance and support.