Yes, you should consult with an attorney prior to giving a recorded statement to the at-fault party’s insurance company. An attorney will be able to advise you on how to best tell your side of the story of the car accident to the insurance company to make sure that you do not accidentally say something that might damage your claim.
Why is the at-fault insurance company calling me for a recorded statement in the first place?
As soon as a car accident occurs, the at-fault insurance company places an insurance adjuster on the case. This insurance adjuster’s job is to try to make sure that the insurance company pays out as little as possible on potential claims against it. As part of that job, the insurance adjuster will want to ask you a series of questions designed to make you admit one thing – that the accident was, at least partially, your fault. These questions are designed to gather information that can be sued to pay you nothing because it is the adjuster’s job to resolve this claim in a way that is best for the adjuster’s employer, the insurance company. This is the business model for insurance companies.
Insurance companies do two things – collect premiums and pay claims. All the companies seek to maximize profits, and insurance companies maximize profits by collecting as much money in premiums as possible and paying out as little as possible in claims.
It is important to make sure that your accident report is completely correct, because even a minor inconsistency can affect your personal injury claim.
Do I have to talk to the insurance adjuster?
No, you do not have to give a statement to the at-fault insurance adjuster. In fact, it is usually advisable that you should not give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster at all.
The insurance company only needs basic information (such as your name, address, and phone number) to process your claim. It is important to note that for automobile accidents, unlike accidents that occur on a premises, there are almost always two insurance companies involved, yours and the other driver’s. Your insurance policy may require you to give your insurance company a recorded statement, and you should do this since, in most cases, your insurance company is not trying to work against you.
If you choose to give a statement, you should certainly consult an experienced auto accident attorney before you provide one. It is important to remember that the insurance adjuster knows the tricks of putting words in your mouth and getting you to discuss your injuries in ways that are detrimental to your claim.
Won’t an admission of partial fault on my part just lessen the recovery I receive?
No, and this is why speaking with the at-fault insurance company’s adjuster can be particularly dangerous for your case. North Carolina is one of a handful of states that are “contributory negligence” states.
This means that in any negligence lawsuit, if the one party is even partially at fault, that partial fault will bar recovery completely. This means that the other driver could be 99% at fault, but if they can show that you are just 1% at fault, you will not be able to recover anything.
This is why, as a strategic matter, it is important that you consult with an attorney before the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster gets your recorded statement.