If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, you’re immediately going through so much stress that you may not be able to think clearly. The first things you should take care of are your immediate medical needs – this is the most important task you need to be concerned with. When your medical needs have been met, and you are safely back at home, you can then contact your insurance company to alert them of your accident.
Of course, you should always tell the truth to your insurance company. This should be understood. But there are things that you shouldn’t volunteer to your insurance company and specific things you shouldn’t say at all. You need to protect your interests, and primarily, your ability to receive proper compensation for the damages you’ve suffered. If you know what to say and what not to say, you are in a much better position to obtain that compensation.
It may come as a surprise to you to know that your insurance company is not on your side. They have a very different set of goals when it comes to paying out on any policy that they underwrite. It would be nice to think that your insurance company only has your best interest in mind, but the truth is that they are concerned only with their own interests, and paying out as little as they can on every claim for every policy.
An insurance company makes their money by collecting insurance premiums for insurance policies that they carry. That income is offset by the claims that they have to pay out on. Knowing this, it makes sense that they want to keep as much money as they can, and that means that they want to pay out on claims as little money as possible.
Following is a list of things you should NEVER volunteer to your insurance company. You should always be honest, but you do not have to be forthcoming with any but the most basic information.
“The accident was my fault.”
Never admit fault for the accident you were in. When you are tasked with describing the accident to your insurance representative, only reveal facts, and keep your own personal opinions and emotions out of it entirely. Remember that anything you say will be used against you to reduce your compensation as much as possible.
Also, remember that you do not know every aspect of the situation that occurred. You may assume you were at fault for the accident and that may not be the case at all. It also pays to know that anything you say to the other driver, or anyone else at the accident scene could be used against you. So it pays to just keep your information as private as possible, and only state facts, and only to the insurance company.
“I don’t have any injuries.”
Some injuries caused by an auto accident do not show up for months after the accident occurs, so never claim that you don’t have any injuries because you simply don’t know if that is the truth. Very often, injuries from an accident are apparent right at the scene of the accident, but other times, injuries show up later. Take, for example, internal bleeding, or a back or neck injury. These may or may not be apparent at the accident scene. It may take a few days to feel pain from these injuries, and if you have already claimed you do not have any injuries, that statement can and will be used against you.
“I am making an official statement.”
You should avoid giving any “official statement” until you talk to a personal injury attorney. Doing so could be catastrophic to the recovery of damages in your case. You do not have any obligation to give a recorded official statement to anyone, despite what the insurance claims representative may tell you. Remember that the insurance company may turn your words around to use against you if it means less of a payout on their end.
“I guess…” or, “I think…”
If you don’t know the answer to a question, you simply say, “I don’t know.” This is perfectly acceptable, as you can not know the answers to all the questions. Never offer your own opinions, or let your emotions get involved. Stick to hard facts, and if you don’t know exact facts, simply say that you don’t know the answer. The insurance company may ask you questions about your speed, or distance between you and the other vehicle. Do not estimate answers to these questions. “I don’t know”, is the correct answer.
Other People Involved
Never give out names of anyone else involved in the accident. It’s not your responsibility, and since you don’t have all the facts, what you reveal could be incorrect. If your insurance company wants names, advise them that they can talk to your attorney, if you have one, or just say you do not know.
Accepting a Settlement
When you begin communicating with your insurance company, they will very likely offer you a lump sum of money as a settlement. This initial offer of a settlement is a low-ball offer, and shouldn’t even be considered. You not only have to receive compensation for your injuries and property damage, but also for your time off work, and future medical treatment bills, too. Though you may be tempted to accept this offer just to get some money with which to begin paying these bills, it would be a huge mistake to do so. Always consult with an attorney before you decide to accept any settlement.
“I don’t have an attorney.”
Even if you haven’t yet retained the services of an experienced attorney, please don’t admit that to the insurance company. A personal injury attorney knows exactly how the insurance companies work. They will fight to get you the compensation that you deserve for the damages that you have sustained in the accident. And you will not have to pay them out of your own pocket. A personal injury attorney is paid out of the compensation that they are able to recover for you, so if you do not recover anything, you do not owe the attorney anything. It also pays to point out that an experienced personal injury attorney knows their way around these types of lawsuits, so they will have knowledge of things that you do not, such as different ways that you are eligible for compensation.