Posted by Chip Evans on 12/17/2018

When Should and Shouldn't You Speak to Insurance Companies After a Car Accident?

When Should and Shouldn't You Speak to Insurance Companies After a Car Accident?

You’ve been in an auto accident, and the other driver was at fault. The other driver’s insurance company calls and wants to talk to you about the accident. Should you?

How you answer that question could have an enormous impact on the success and amount of any claim you may be pursuing.

You’re Under No Obligation

One of the first calls you make after an accident should be to your own insurance company to report the incident. However, you are not obliged to speak to the other party’s insurance company at all. In fact, many experts advise against it. You always have the option of politely referring them to your own insurance adjuster, or to a car accident attorney if you have gotten one.

It’s a slightly different story if the other driver happens to have the same insurer you do. If that’s the case, do your best to cooperate with them, but still consider filtering communication through your attorney, just to help keep all the issues straight. And in some cases, it may be more expedient to speak with the other driver’s insurance company, especially if it is clear who was at fault, injuries were minor, and there are no serious damages at stake. Also, if the other party is refusing to talk with their own insurer, talking to you may be the only way for the company to learn the basic facts of the case.

They’re Not On Your Side

Generally speaking, though, it’s best to remember that the other driver’s insurance company, by definition, does not have your best interests at heart. Remember the goals of the insurance company: to pay out as little as possible on as few claims as possible. The only information they are usually interested in getting is information that can help them reach those goals. And they know many tricks to try and get it from you.

An aggressive insurance adjuster will try to get you to make statements or answer questions in a way that deflects liability away from their client. They may try to get you to agree to facts that you may not know are accurate. This is especially dangerous when discussing medical issues—it may take a considerable amount of time to know all of the health implications of your accident, and you simply may not have all the information you need yet.

It’s not uncommon to respond to an insistent line of questioning, out of frustration, with a statement like “I guess” or “Probably.” Even those words can open up a window of doubt that can hurt your claim.

If you do talk to the other driver’s insurance company, do not volunteer information. Answer the questions that you are asked. And if you simply don’t know the answer to a question, don’t speculate—you don’t want to be on record making a statement that turns out not to be 100 percent accurate.

They May Use Your Words Against You

The other driver’s insurance company will be looking for inconsistencies in your statement, so if you say something during a phone call that differs from your official accident report, it can be used against you during the legal process. If your statement is recorded, that gives the opposing party that much more ammunition. The insurance company will probably request to record the phone call, but you should not agree.

If your case should go to trial, inconsistencies in your statements—even if they are innocent mistakes—can be disastrous. The opposing attorney will be looking for any way that he can get a jury to doubt your claims.

You Don’t Have to Accept Their Offer

Almost certainly, the adjuster will attempt to respond to your initial demand with a low-ball first offer. The adjuster may argue that you were partially at fault or that the amount of medical care you received was unnecessary. He may apply pressure, saying that it's a "one-time offer" or that anything higher would exceed his "authority"--the maximum amount his superiors at the insurance company will allow for the settlement.

This is a trap that many uninformed and unprotected claimants might fall into. The claims process can be confusing and unpleasant, and the desire to end it quickly can be powerful, leading you to make bad decisions.

Remember, the other driver’s insurance company is not on your side. An experienced personal injury attorney can be the advocate you need to help you navigate the complicated claims process, avoid pitfalls along the way, and get you all of the compensation you deserve. You need never feel bullied or threatened if you can respond to a phone call from the other party with these magic words: “You need to discuss this with my lawyer.”

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