Recorded statements: A trap for the unwary

Should I provide a recorded statement to the insurance company regarding my accident or injury?

You’ve been in an auto accident that wasn’t your fault. One day shortly thereafter, an adjuster from the insurance company for the at-fault driver calls on the telephone. They want you to give a recorded statement telling them how the accident happened, and provide personal information.

They say they want to help you, and you certainly need help. They say that all they need before they can pay you is a brief statement to “firm up liability.” They’re pleasant and seem so nice. Besides, you have nothing to hide because the crash wasn’t your fault. What could be wrong with answering the questions on tape? Plenty!

recorded statement

As a general rule, you should not give an oral or recorded statement concerning a motor vehicle crash to anyone without the advice of an attorney. To understand why it is not in your best interest to make a statement, put yourself in the insurance company’s shoes. An insurance company is in business to make money for its shareholders. Every dollar it pays out in claims to people like you is a dollar lost from the company’s bottom line. Therefore, the top priority for every insurance company employee is to reduce the amount paid out in claims—and that includes yours.

To reduce claims paid, the insurance company must refuse many claims made. To do this, company employees will look for reasons to deny your claim and they may use your recorded statement for this purpose. How?

  • Insurance company employees will compare the statement you gave them with other statements you have made, including statements you gave an investigating police officer or statements you made during your deposition in a lawsuit arising from the accident. Where they find inconsistencies in your multiple statements — and this is not unusual when someone tells the story of his accident more than once, sometimes weeks or months apart — the company will claim you lied. The company may deny your claim as a result.
  • Insurance company employees will ask questions worded in such a way that they could trap or trick you into responses that hurt your case. You may not even realize this is happening at the time. They may try to push or bully you into agreeing to facts you aren’t certain are completely accurate. You respond “I guess so” just to get the questioner off your back. Unfortunately, that “I guess so” can come back to haunt you later.
  • Insurance company employees may lead you into making statements that make it sound as though you remember less than you really do. Before they even begin to record you, they may say things like “I guess it all happened really fast. It probably seemed like a blur. You probably were pretty shaken up afterward. Makes it difficult to remember exactly what happened, doesn’t it?” The result is that you may make statements that sound like you don’t really remember what happened.

The bottom line is that you should never give a recorded statement to an insurance company representative without the advice and guidance of an attorney. You are under no legal obligation to provide them with any statement at all. When you turn down the representative’s request, be courteous but firm. No matter how friendly or personable they may be when they’re talking to you, always keep in mind that they are employees of the insurance company and represent only its interests—not yours.