One Thing to Do to Avoid Damaging Your Claim
I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.
Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.
Today’s question comes from a client I was speaking with the other day who asked “is there one thing that people often do before they call an attorney, which really harms their case, and if so, what is that thing?”
There is indeed something that people routinely do that can damage their claim.
I understand why they do it. And, when they do it, they do not think that they are jeopardizing their claim at all. What is that one thing you ask?
Well, the most harmful thing you can do to damage your case, the one thing you need to work hard to avoid doing, is to speak to the defendant driver’s insurance adjuster and give a recorded statement.
We have all seen the TV police shows where a couple of detectives are interrogating a suspect and one detective says to the other before going into the room, “let’s see if we can nail this guy before he asks to speak to an attorney”.
Let that sink in for a second. We see the same scene in police shows from Hawaii 5 0, to NCIS, to you name it. We know that talking without having consulted an attorney is dangerous. But, so many people, especially in these shows, go ahead and talk.
The principle is the same in civil cases. Think of the insurance representative as the detective. When he or she talks to you about your claim, you are the SUSPECT.
Unless you’ve first spoken to an attorney and have some understanding of the significance of giving a recorded statement, all kinds of harm can flow from speaking off-the-cuff, unprepared, with a trained insurance adjuster who is doing his or her job. Why? The adjuster is trained to pin you down. To get you to speculate on information that you may know nothing about. And, to in every conceivable way to get you to unknowingly damage your ability to bring a claim to successful conclusion.
The insurance company wants a recorded statement, just like the detectives want a suspect’s statement, to commit you, the suspect, to facts supporting the other driver’s position.
When an insurance adjuster for the defendant calls you, if you were to say, “if I give a recorded statement will you allow me to take a recorded statement of the other driver?” How do you think that insurance representative would answer you?
The insurance company will immediately say, “Absolutely Not. We’re not going to allow you to take a statement of our driver.”
They might not give an explanation, but the explanation would be for the same reasons we are telling you to be wary of giving a statement.
Here are some traps that an insurance adjuster will try to spring on you:
Once the recorder starts suppose the adjuster taking the statement says “Hi. This is Joe Adjuster, how you doing today?”
What happens if you simply respond “I’m fine”. That phrase “I’m fine” will be used against you if you’re really hurting.
“How can that be?” you might be thinking. Well, if in fact you are in pain or taking pain meds, you have just answered in a way that has given a misimpression and that recorded statement has captured you are saying “I’m fine” and at trial the insurance company will repeat that you told them you were “fine”.
Then the insurance company will take the position that since you were “fine” you had no need to later obtain medical treatment. Or, the insurance company will argue that you lied to your doctor when you told the doctor you were not were fine.
In short, any little thing that you might be asked can pose a problem because it can be taken out of context and it is recorded in your own voice.
Always consult an attorney before answering any questions in a recorded statement. Nine times out of ten, the attorney will suggest that you do not give a recorded statement.
Now if you have given a recorded statement and now hear this message, I would tell you that you still should contact an attorney. Just because you gave a statement, your case may not be totally lost.
The fact that you may’ve given a statement doesn’t 100% in every situation destroy your claim, but the number one thing you can do to harm a case is to give a recorded statement without consulting an attorney.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at www.DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.