It is common for a victim of a negligent driver to feel compelled to call the driver’s insurance company after a collision to open a claim. If the insurance adjuster is doing a good job they will often ask to take a recorded statement. When facing such a decision it is important that you understand why they want to record your statement.
I will never allow a client to give a recorded statement to a third party insurance carrier. I have been doing this work for over 20 years now, and I have never once seen an instance in which a recorded statement helped a victim out. On the other hand, I have seen recorded statements pulled out in arbitration or trial to suggest inconsistencies in testimony in order to allow the defense to attack my client’s credibility.
The insurance company does not need to have your statement recorded in order to consider the merits of your claim. You can just tell them what happened. Why do they want to record it? The answer is simple. They are preparing their defense.
Sometimes third party insurance adjusters will act like I’m unreasonable when I refuse to present my client for a recorded statement. I’m all about compromise, so I suggest two options generally. First, I ask if they will accept the recorded statement in lieu of a discovery deposition in the event we should be forced to file suit. The adjuster can take my client’s recorded statement if they waive their right to depose my client when suit is filed. I like this idea because the insurance adjuster will inevitably do a much worse job getting my client’s statement than a seasoned attorney sitting for a three hour deposition. They never agree to this. Second, I sometimes suggest that I would agree to present my client for a recorded statement if they would present their insured. This is only fair, right? If they feel entitled to my client’s statement they shouldn’t be surprised by my request to interview their insured, but the honest truth is that insurance companies will never allow their insureds sit for a recorded statement because they know it is a bad idea. Not surprisingly, no insurance adjuster has ever agreed to these compromises, and accordingly I have never presented a client for a third party recorded statement.
They are sneaky too. The insurance adjuster who gets a call to open a claim may act like they are working with you. “Oh I’m sorry this has happened. Would you like to give a recorded statement?” …as if they are offering you a service by giving you the opportunity to give a recorded statement. An indignant victim might agree and give the statement without realizing the implications of their actions.
I took a page from the insurance adjuster’s book in this regard. A few years ago I received a call from an irate driver who received a letter of representation from us. I got on the phone and was subjected to an ear full of frustration and anger from a driver who believed he was not responsible for my client’s injuries after she had ridden her bicycle into his parked car (He doored a bicyclist). I thanked him for his thoughtful explanation and said, “I’m sorry, would you like to give a recorded statement?” He agreed with righteous indignation. Perfect. I hit the record button on my phone and took his statement. We used his recorded statement against him at arbitration.
If you have been involved in a collision it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer before you contact the driver’s insurance. It is my experience that the average citizen has never had a personal injury claim and they don’t know what they are doing. They tend to make mistakes. We do this stuff every day. We do it right.