Following a car accident, you may have many questions about your rights and what you need to do next. One question at the top of your list: should you talk to the insurance company?
After a car accident, you need to take three critical steps:
- Report the accident to the police by calling 911
- Seek medical attention
- Report the accident to your auto insurance company
You do not have to contact the other driver’s insurance company. After a minor fender bender, your insurance company will take care of that for you. After a more serious accident, you may need to deal with the other driver’s insurance company directly, especially if you suffered severe injuries and need to seek compensation through a personal injury claim.
What Happens If the Insurance Company Contacts You?
In some cases, the other driver’s insurance company may call you for a report regarding what led to the accident. In order to file a personal injury claim against that driver’s insurance, you will need to prove that the other driver caused your accident. In some cases, that may prove incredibly difficult, especially if you have no evidence from the scene of the accident or witness statements vary.
Talk to an attorney before accepting a call from the insurance company. An attorney can better advise you about how to proceed with any statement that you need to make, take over negotiations on your behalf, or even help you decide how to handle your claim. You may also need to work with an attorney to help you better understand the compensation you really deserve from the accident.
What Does the Insurance Company Want to Accomplish?
The representative you speak with from the insurance company may say that he has called to take a statement about the accident. He wants to know what led to the accident, including any evidence you may have. He may encourage you to speak up about what caused or contributed to your accident. During the conversation, he may attempt to accomplish several things.
1. He may try to trip you up.
If you make a statement before talking to your attorney, you may find yourself making statements you did not intend to make. For example, he may try to catch you saying that you may have contributed to the accident in some way. Often, insurance adjusters will try to convince you to take at least partial responsibility for an accident, which may reduce the company’s financial liability following your accident.
Sometimes, you may trip over your tongue due to Southern politeness. Many people end up trained to say, “Oh, that’s okay,” or to make an excuse that also accepts liability for an event. For example, following your accident, you might admit that you did not really pay attention, or that your speed had crept too high.
2. He may try to pick up details you did not intend to provide through small talk.
Imagine a common scenario. The insurance adjuster makes some small talk. “How are you doing?” he asks.
“Busy,” you admit. “It seems like my phone never stops ringing.”
“Yeah, I swear, my text message alert goes off every five minutes.”
Suddenly, the insurance adjuster has grounds to suggest that your distraction behind the wheel may have contributed to the accident. Likewise, if you admit that you have lost sleep recently due to work responsibilities or kids, he may try to claim that drowsiness may have caused you to contribute to the accident.
The insurance adjuster may also listen for you to talk about activities that you participated in over the past little while. Suppose, for example, that you suffered several broken bones in the accident. In addition to claiming compensation for medical expenses related to the accident, you may include compensation for pain and suffering in your claim. Your claim may include missed opportunities and activities: lost social relationships, for example. An attempt to sound upbeat—for example, “Oh, I have friends coming over for a game night tonight!”—may make it appear as though you have suffered less social isolation than you initially claimed.
An insurance adjuster will listen carefully to everything that you have to say to look for ways to minimize your compensation. Sometimes, you may not even realize that something you have said may minimize the compensation you can receive. Often, it falls under the category of small talk: something you do not think twice about saying, even to a stranger. Unfortunately, it can have far-reaching implications for your claim.
3. The insurance adjuster may try to convince you to accept a low settlement offer.
Many insurance adjusters will try to convince you to accept a low settlement offer instead of providing you with the full compensation you deserve for your injuries. Your compensation may get limited by the terms of the policy, but it should not end up limited by a fast settlement that does not reflect your needs. Often, however, an insurance adjuster will put pressure on you to accept a fast settlement. The adjuster may try to convince you that you need to accept a fast offer before it “goes away,” or play on your very real fears that it will take a long time to settle your claim. With medical bills rising, you may find yourself struggling to come up with the money you need, and you may give in to pressure to accept an offer instead of taking the time to negotiate a claim.
By talking to an attorney, on the other hand, you can get a much better idea of the compensation you really deserve for the injuries sustained in your accident. An attorney cannot guarantee the compensation you ultimately receive or that an insurance company will offer, but he can provide you with a better look at how much compensation you deserve for your injuries.
If you sustained serious injuries in a car accident, you should always speak to an attorney before talking to the other party’s insurance company. Alvendia Kelly & Demarest can help. Contact us today at 504-200-0000 for a free case review.