Questions the Insurance Adjuster Might Ask After a Car Accident
If you were injured in a motor vehicle crash, you probably know that you may be able to file a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company in order to recover compensation for your losses. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration requires drivers to carry certain auto insurance minimums to protect victims in just this type of situation. As part of the claims process, you can expect a call from the insurer’s adjuster regarding the collision, your injuries, and other relevant details.
You might think that this individual is simply trying to gather basic information, but there is another motivation lurking beneath the surface — figuring out ways to deny payment of your rightful claim. We have seen many potential clients destroy their own potential cases by carelessly providing recorded statements to adverse carriers and casually making statements on a recorded line that subsequently give the insurer a basis to their deny their claim and use the statements against the claimants in court. In general, it is good advice to refuse to provide a recorded statement or any kind of statement to an adverse insurance company prior to talking to a lawyer about the facts of your particular case. Examples of potential traps include questions like the following:
Who do you think was responsible for causing the collision? The adjuster is asking this question to avoid pinning blame on the insurance company’s policyholder – i.e., the responsible driver. If you suggest that you might be partly at fault, the insurer will deny your claim. Further, Maryland and Virginia law both apply contributory negligence doctrines where if a judge or jury finds you even partially at fault, your claim is barred. You might have no legal recourse in court either, since Maryland’s contributory fault law will not allow you to recover damages if you were even slightly negligent and such statements can be used against you.
What were you doing in the moments before the accident? This is a sly question that is also relevant to #1 above, since you might admit that you were on the phone, adjusting the radio, or otherwise distracted. If you were making a turn, passing another car, or executing some other traffic maneuver, the adjuster may dig deeper to determine whether you were not violating any laws in doing so.
Where were you going/coming from when the crash occurred? If there is any presumption, hunch, or hint that alcohol was involved in the auto collision, the insurance company might deny your claim. By asking this question, an adjuster wants to know if you were at a restaurant, party, or other celebration before the accident. Alternatively, you could put your claim at risk if you admit that you were going to work and running late – at which point it could be suggested that you were speeding.
Did you talk to any witnesses after the collision? The adjuster will want to talk to anyone who observed the accident, but that does not mean you have to assist in the insurance company’s investigation. If the insurer needs information from a witness, the company can get it without your help. Additionally, there is always a risk that the adjuster will discourage the witness from getting involved.
When did you seek treatment for your auto accident injuries? Aside from fault, another important issue in a car crash claim is the severity and nature of your injuries. By asking this question, the adjuster might be trying to determine if you delayed getting medical care. When you do not see a doctor right away, the presumption might be that you were not hurt too seriously; otherwise, you would have gone to the emergency room or urgent care center immediately. Therefore, statements of this kind can be used against you if in fact, your injury turns out to be severe, or the causation or mechanism of injury is of a complex nature.
How badly were you hurt? Generally, the more severe the injuries, the higher the amount an insurance company might have to pay for medical expenses, pain and suffering. However, as a layperson, you may not be in the best position to comment on the specifics of your bodily harm. Medical experts are relied upon in court cases to describe and opine on injuries. Therefore, it is sometimes wise to leave it to the experts.
Have you missed work because of your injuries? You may qualify to recover lost wages if you were hurt so badly that you were unable to work or were limited in what you could do at your job. As with your medical records, you can provide documentation to reflect the income you lost.
Can I record this conversation? Absolutely, under no circumstances, should you allow your conversation to be recorded by the insurance adjuster. You may make statements or admissions adverse to your interests, whether they are related to fault, your injuries, or any other relevant matter. You may not even realize that you are putting your claim at risk, but your words could come back to haunt you when they have been recorded.
Would you sign a release regarding your claim? This is another question that has critical implications for your right to recover compensation, once you understand the basics of a release. As the term suggests, you are releasing your rights to take the action described. When an adjuster asks you to sign a release, it may be because the insurance company is trying to get you to accept their first offer to settle. You might think the amount sounds appropriate, but there could be many factors or unknowns – which might justify a much higher payout. When you sign a release, you may no legal remedies beyond what you already accepted. It might be appropriate to consult with an attorney before you sign on the dotted line.
Consult with a Maryland Car Accident Attorney Before Talking to an Insurer
When you hire us to represent you, our team will handle all interactions and communications with the responsible driver’s insurance company, including filing the initial claim and engaging in settlement negotiations. If the insurer will not agree to pay out a fair, reasonable amount to resolve your claim, we are prepared to take the matter to court.
To learn more about our legal services, contact our one of our offices to set up a no-charge consultation with one of our attorneys.