How to Speak to an Insurance Company After an Accident
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Rachael K. Jones with Tilton & Tilton LLP.
Before speaking to an insurance company after an accident it’s a good idea to understand a little bit about how insurance companies make their money. Insurance companies are paid monthly premiums by their policyholders to provide insurance in case of an accident. They retain this money as profit by reducing or denying as many claims as possible, even valid ones on occasion. When this occurs, it is referred to as insurance bad faith and could open up the insurance company to liability if a policyholder identifies it and takes action. However, in many cases, a policyholder might not know how to handle the situation and find themselves struggling to recover from an accident on their own. This is why it’s important to refrain from sharing information with an insurance company which could in any way be misinterpreted in a way that could negatively impact your eligibility for coverage. The best way to go about communicating with your own or another insurance company is to have a lawyer do so on your behalf, but if this isn’t possible, it’s a good idea to remember a few key tips about how to speak to an insurance company after an accident.
Don’t admit liability.
This seems like a simple concept, but it’s important to remember that liability can be perceived in many ways. Even making a blanket apology to another driver at the scene of the accident could be taken as an admission of fault, even if your actions did not contribute to the collision or only contributed in part. This is why it’s also a good idea to refrain from sharing too many details regarding the accident with your insurance adjuster. Insurance adjusters intending to deny or reduce a claim can find ways to interpret the situation differently than how it occurred, eliminating your eligibility to receive the insurance benefits you pay for access to.
Don’t give a statement about the accident.
An insurance adjuster may claim that you are required to make a statement about the accident, but this is not the case. Refrain from describing the accident in any level of detail. It’s also important that if you do choose to discuss the situation with your insurance adjuster you do not agree to have your statement recorded. Anything said in this statement may be used against you to deny your claim. It is not uncommon for policyholders to initially believe they are at fault for an accident, only to find later that the other driver was texting while driving or contributed to the accident in a far more dangerous way. As a general rule of thumb, if you are decided to be 50% or less at fault for an accident, you are still eligible to receive compensation for your damages. This may change depending on your state. It can be hard to assess this percentage on one’s own, which is why it’s best not to attempt doing so at all. If you wish, you may reach out to an accident attorney and their team of experts can help evaluate the situation on your behalf.
Don’t let your adjuster talk you out of an attorney.
If an insurance adjuster tells you that you don’t need to involve an attorney, or otherwise attempts to discourage you from hiring one, this is a warning sign. Insurance companies that are practicing in good faith and have nothing to hide have no reason to fear the involvement of an attorney.
Don’t release your medical records to the insurance company.
You do not have to release your medical records to an insurance company, even if they request them. While this is not always a red flag, sharing any kind of medical information should be done with caution and preferably on the advice of an attorney. Similarly, do not let an insurance adjuster tell you what medical treatments are or are not necessary.
Don’t sign anything in exchange for money from the insurance company.
If an adjuster offers you a percentage of your claim to be received right away in exchange for your signature on a waiver, refrain from doing so. This often waives your right to the full compensation you are entitled to. If you run into difficulty when dealing with your insurance adjuster in this or other areas, it is important to refrain from agreeing to anything, signing anything, or sharing more information. Seek legal counsel from an accident attorney to ensure your right to the insurance you paid for is protected.