You have been in a car accident. You are focusing on all the things you need to do to move forward, such as taking care of your injuries, getting your car fixed and filing all the necessary paperwork. You answer your phone one day and, to your surprise, you find yourself speaking with an insurance company that is not your own. They represent another person involved in the accident. What should you do?
If this situation occurs, you need to know exactly how to respond. It is important you protect yourself and your rights when you have been in a car accident.
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Tips for Talking With an Insurance Company Contact
If you get a call from another insurance company, first remember to stay calm and be polite. Before you answer any questions, ask the person for their name, title and the name of the company they work for, and write down this information. Take notes throughout your conversation on the topics you discuss.
Here are some other things that you should know if you receive a call.
1. You Are Not Legally Obliged to Speak to an Adjuster From Another Insurance Company.
In most states, you are legally only required to speak with a representative of your own insurance company. If it makes you uncomfortable to speak with another insurance company’s representative, you have a few options. You can decline to talk with them, you can ask them to call the adjuster from your insurance company, or you can tell them you’ll only speak to them in the presence of your lawyer.
2. Insurance Companies Know This, but They Will Call You Anyway.
Unfortunately, many people do not just say to the insurance advisor from another company, “Sorry, I just don’t want to talk right now.” Adjusters for other insurance companies know this and try to take advantage of it. So be prepared and expect a call sooner rather than later.
3. The Other Insurance Company Is Not Your Friend.
The number one goal of the other driver’s insurance company is to pay you as little money as possible, and none at all if they can help it. They do not have your best interests at heart. They do not care how badly you may be injured. It is all about the money. One of the main reasons they will call you is to try to trick you into providing evidence that the accident was your fault, that any injuries you may have suffered were minor or that you didn’t have any injuries at all. This is another good reason why you do not want to talk to the other insurance company without your lawyer present.
These companies have two main goals in mind:
- The first goal is to deny as many possible car accident claims as they can.
- If they cannot deny the claim, the second goal is to negotiate the lowest possible settlement.
4. Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You.
An adjuster for another driver’s insurance company will probe and ask questions that on the surface do not seem related to the incident at all. What they are trying to do is to draw you out to answer the question in a way that they can use to force you into a settlement or against you if you file a claim and it goes to trial.
When you talk to the adjuster for the insurance company of the other driver, you are risking damaging your claim. Remember, these insurance adjusters do this every day. They know that you have been in an accident and are not feeling all that well. They are trained to look for evidence they can use against you. You are on their turf, and they know the rules of the game. They will use those rules against you if they can.
5. Do Not Let Them Record You. Do Not Give a Written Statement.
Most insurance adjusters do not come at you full force. Instead, they will try to be chatty and convince you that they are just trying to get the best possible details on what happened. One of their favorite tricks is to try to convince you to allow them to record the conversation. They will say something like, “This will go much faster if you can give us a recorded statement.”
Do not do it.
A recorded statement is one of the main ways you can damage your case. Insurance adjusters for other companies will use a recorded statement to undermine your accident claim. How do they do that?
The adjuster will examine the statement that you gave to the police at the scene of the accident and the one that you gave to them, as well as any statement you may have made when you filed your claim. They are looking for the slightest inconsistency so they can deny your claim. Four or five months after an accident happened, it is not unusual for a person to relate the details of an accident slightly differently. Giving them a recorded statement allow them to look for those inconsistencies.
Adjusters will ask you those unusual questions that we mentioned above, ones that are designed to undermine your claim. Sometimes they will encourage you to agree with something that you know is not true. If you just want them to leave you alone, or to change the line of questioning, you may say something like, “Maybe,” or, “I guess so.” This is that what they want you to do.
If a claim goes to trial, the other party’s defense team will use your recorded statement during cross-examination. It is possible that you could have made the statements which they recorded months ago and you have a hard time remembering what you even said. This is the trap they have laid for you. If you even slightly contradict what you said in a recorded statement while you are on the stand in a trial, the other party’s attorneys will zero in on that discrepancy and will make sure the jury pays close attention to it.
6. Never Admit Fault or Say You Are Not Hurt.
When you are in an accident, the actual details can be blurry sometimes, especially if you suffered a concussion or whiplash. Maybe you are not sure who exactly was to blame. Regardless, never admit that you are responsible even a tiny bit for the accident. You can seriously damage your case if you admit to the insurance adjuster that you were or might have been responsible for the accident.
The same holds true about injuries. It is important to remember that in the first day or two after an accident, especially a serious one, your body is producing a lot of adrenaline. Adrenaline can act as a mask for more serious injuries. You might feel fine the second or third day after an accident, but once the adrenaline fades in a week or so, you may notice that your neck hurts, or it is painful when you touch your stomach or have other serious symptoms.
Adjusters will use many different tricks to get you to say that you have not been injured or that you are feeling okay. Also, if you know you are in pain, do not mention it to the insurance adjuster. Just say that you are waiting to hear back from your doctor or that you have not had time for a proper medical examination, so you do not know.
7. Only Answer the Question Asked.
When the adjuster from the other party’s insurance company calls you, they will try to engage you in a friendly chat. Their primary goal is to trick you into thinking is just a friendly call, and they want to make sure that you are okay. It is not a friendly call, and they do not care how you are feeling.
They are merely looking for ways for you to trick you into giving evidence against yourself that they can use to deny your claim or give you a settlement that is much lower than what you deserve.
So do not get into a “friendly chat” with the insurance adjuster. Do not give them any detailed descriptions about the accident, or any injuries that you may have suffered or what you think of the entire situation. You should just never discuss any of these details with an adjuster. It is okay to mention any possible damages to your car but never discuss injuries or the actual details of the accident.
One of the questions that insurance adjusters ask most frequently is, “In your opinion, who had the last opportunity to avoid the crash?” They are probing to see if there is something that you could have done to avoid the accident at the last second. Was the radio on too loud? Were you looking at your smartphone? Were you distracted by something you saw the street? Normally, the adjuster asks this question because they know that the driver they represent was at fault and they are trying to find some way to reduce that liability by implying that you had a chance to avoid the accident.
The best answer you can give is, “I guess the person who hit me had the last opportunity.”
Be honest, but do not give any more information than you need to. Keep it simple and straightforward.
8. Never Agree to a Settlement Over the Phone or Sign Anything.
One of the reasons that adjusters for the other driver’s insurance company will call so soon after the accident is that they want to push you into agreeing to a settlement as soon as they can. This is especially true if they know that their driver was primarily at fault. Insurance adjusters know that anyone who has been an accident is a little unsettled for a day or two. They will try to use your condition as leverage to force you into accepting a settlement.
Never accept a settlement over the phone. In the first day or two after the accident, you have no idea what medical bills you are going to have, how long you may be off work or how much it will cost to repair your car. Resist the pressure and tell them that you have no interest in settling at the moment.
9. Sometimes Your Own Insurance Company Is Not Your Friend Either.
Pennsylvania is a no-fault insurance state. That means most of your medical bills or lost wages are going to be covered by your own insurance company. This means that you need to be as careful with your own insurance company as you are with the insurance company of another driver.
Almost all the advice above applies to your own insurance company as well. You may be required by law to give a recorded statement to the company but if you must do so, make sure that your lawyer is present. Again, you want to be honest and straightforward, avoiding embellishments or chatty conversations. If it was a serious accident, the police are required to file a report in Pennsylvania. For that reason, you should always refer the insurance company to the police report when they ask you about how the accident came about.
Another reason for caution is that Pennsylvania employs a modified comparative negligence system when determining compensation and personal injury cases. That means the insurance company can reduce any benefits or compensation you may receive by the percentage of the accident that you are judged to be responsible for. So if you are judged to be 30% responsible for a car accident, and you are awarded $10,000 in compensation, your award will be reduced by $3,000. This is why you should never admit fault for the accident or say that you are uninjured, even when you are speaking with your own insurance company.
Are There Any Times That I Should Talk to the Other Insurance Company?
Yes, if the accident was a minor one – a fender bender or slight dent. If you are completely sure that any injuries or damage are minor or nonexistent and it is clear that the driver of the other vehicle was responsible, it may not be a bad idea to talk to the other insurance company. But if there is the slightest chance that your injuries or damages are more significant than you think or if there is any question about who is responsible for the accident, then all the suggestions above apply.
You will want to give out the bare minimum of information. Offering your name, address and phone number is fine. However, you should not volunteer details about:
- The accident itself, including how it happened.
- Any injuries you incurred.
- Your own insurance claim.
- Whether you have discussed the case with a lawyer.
Make it clear when you end the conversation that you would prefer limited telephone contact in the future. Under no circumstances should you agree to settle while on the phone with the other company. They may push you to do so, as it is in their own interests to limit the amount paid out. But you likely deserve much more than they will offer you, so you should refuse a hasty settlement option.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Yes. Hiring a personal injury lawyer is the best way to protect yourself if you have been seriously injured and face the prospect of missing many days at work. Remember, as we mentioned above, insurance adjusters for other companies are used to doing this on a daily basis. That is why you need someone who has just as much experience dealing with these cases as they do. A personal injury lawyer will make sure no one takes advantage of you and that you get the compensation and benefits you deserve.
Before You Speak to Any Insurance Company, Speak to Our Car Accident Lawyers at KBG Injury Law
If you remain uneasy about what to do if another insurance company calls, you should speak with an experienced lawyer about your case. Contact KBG Injury Law. You can call us at 1-800-509-1011, or request a free consultation.