What about recorded statements? You’re going, to tell the truth, right? Well, think again. Your “truth” might be twisted by the adjuster to get you in trouble.
The power of persuasion is amazing. Many adjusters like to address witnesses first to sway, however gently, their perspective. Lawyers refer to it as “woodshedding” a witness, and I learned how to do that when I was an adjuster. If I were to interview you and ask you to break down a car wreck millisecond by millisecond as adjusters are trained to do, I might be able to find a problem with your case if you’re trusting, unsuspecting, and unprepared.
What if you were in a wreck in stop-and-go traffic? Insurance adjusters might ask you for a recorded statement. They’ll say that’s their policy and they need to get that out of the way before they can process your claim. So you describe what happened; you say you were in heavy traffic, the traffic stopped, and you were rear-ended. The adjuster asks if you had to apply your brakes. Of course, you did. The adjuster asks, “Would it be fair to say you had to stop a little faster than normal?” You say “Yes.” The adjuster might ask if you had to “suddenly” stop to avoid hitting the car in front of you. You again say “Yes”; you think nothing of it.
You later learn that your claim is being diminished, or devalued, or outright denied because the insurance company claims you were at fault or partially at fault for causing its insured to ram you from behind. You’re incredulous and ask how that could be. Well, you just unknowingly gave them that ammunition. You agreed with their insurance lawyer–trained adjuster that you had to make a sudden, emergency-like stop just before you were hit. And then the insurance company claims your sudden stop created an “unforeseen condition” that was a “sudden emergency,” and that allows it to argue that its insured did nothing wrong, that its insured was a helpless victim. Don’t shake your head, folks… I’m not making this stuff up.
As I wrote earlier, Tennessee has rules on fault called “modified comparative fault.” Do insurance companies get to pick the percentage of your fault? No. Just because they say so doesn’t have any ruling effect. They routinely put the fault on people who are faultless. Don’t let them push you around. What they say is not gospel, and their decisions are not final.
I’ve forced insurance companies to give me copies of actually recorded statements; I don’t trust their typed transcripts. I’ve seen typing mistakes that change answers that just happen to look hurtful to my people. I’ve heard my clients answering questions when they were obviously under heavy sedation and in no condition to give recorded statements.
The bottom line is, insurance companies can never be trusted as they are looking for every possible loophole not to pay, or pay as little as possible when they know their client is at fault. Is it any wonder that insurance companies push so hard to pay their structured settlements over time instead of to the victims in one lump sum. Make sure you have good representation, from someone like me, if you can’t hired me. Insurance companies will do everything you can to cheat you. You should, in turn, do all you can to ensure that does not happen. Or get offers from structured settlement companies listed here to get cash for your structured settlement and use it for any of your financial needs.
Takeaway: Don’t give a recorded statement to the adjuster. Don’t sign any forms. You can send them the information they need without allowing them to dig into your past without your permission.
Mistake : Posting information about your wreck on social media
There must have been a seminar about two years ago that taught defense lawyers how to fish for information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media. It’s all the rage nowadays; claims adjusters and defense lawyers claim they have a right to all your postings and even your passwords! On top of that, your lawyer could be disbarred for telling you to take down or delete your posts because that could be construed as his or her telling you to destroy evidence, which is unethical.
Many of us (including me) like to receive the sympathy we can get from our friends and family on Facebook. But if you’re ever involved in a car wreck, you’ll have adjusters checking you out very early on. They’ll be looking for some things.
- Pictures of you drinking. They will see if they can portray you as a party animal. They won’t like you, and they think a jury won’t either.
- Statements or actions outside your restrictions. If your doctor has restricted your activities, but you’re seen jumping over hills on a 4-wheeler or skiing, that could hurt your case. They’re looking for ammunition to kill your case. The safer course is to not post anything in the first place.
- Pictures of you on vacation after your injury. They think that if you’re claiming injury, how in the world could you go on vacation? Did you go to Disney with your family? Did you ride a roller-coaster? The Tower of Terror? If so, they’ll think you probably hurt yourself on that also.
The rule is… don’t post anything, particularly about your accident. It is very little you can post that will help your case, and there is much more that can hurt your case. My advice—stay away from posting anything. Far away.
Takeaway: The insurance adjuster and defense lawyers are watching you right now on social media. Don’t give them a chance to crush your case.
Another Mistake: Being referred to a doctor by your lawyer
This is the “Kiss of Death.” Look at this from a potential juror’s perspective. It may be totally innocent and helpful to you, but the insurance company’s defense lawyer will use it against you. He will try to infer that your lawyer and doctor were in cahoots or in a conspiracy to get money unethically and dishonestly. The character of your doctor could be impugned perhaps past repair when it would not have been had your attorney not made that referral.
Rightly or wrongly, jurors may be suspicious of a doctor’s testimony and reject it if the doctor and attorney have too close a relationship. If your attorney makes a referral, be aware of the potential danger, and you should question his or her judgment.
I have a few exceptions about never referring clients to doctors. If a client’s doctor has died or moved away, I’ll need to find a similar doctor to testify about the medical records. Sometimes, a client needs a doctor with special expertise. Take brain injuries for example; that’s an area that is changing greatly. Some doctors don’t give concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) much credence. If I find evidence that a client is suffering from TBI, I’ll send that client to doctors who can fully and accurately assess the problem. I’ll proudly make that referral without hesitation because it would be wrong for me to not fully learn the extent and severity of such an injury that the family practitioner didn’t (or couldn’t) recognize.
Takeaway: If your attorney refers you to a doctor when you already have one or can easily get one, beware! That could be the Kiss of Death for your claim.
Another Mistake: Failure to call the police after an accident
If you’re in a wreck and the person who hit you says that he or she will take care of the damage, that it isn’t necessary to call the police, beware! That person might change his or her story later. I can show you over one hundred answers to lawsuits I’ve had to file because the at-fault parties changed their tune later after the insurance company got to them. They can do this even if the police are called, but their change of heart is much less likely to hold water if a police officer was involved. The police will obtain statements from the other driver and witnesses that could be a tremendous help to you later.
If you don’t call the police, you’re likely to fail to get all the necessary information to document your claim appropriately. You should get at a minimum the name, address, driver’s license number, insurance information, pictures of the other person’s car, and location of damage to the car; that can allow you to avoid substantial problems. Also, how is anyone supposed to find the at-fault driver if you didn’t get accurate information at the scene?
Takeaway: Always call the police after a wreck.
Final Mistake: Hiding past injuries and accidents from your lawyer
Fortunately, this one doesn’t happen to me frequently. I tell my clients I can keep a past criminal conviction out of court if they are honest with me about it. The lawyer and client have to trust each other, particularly when it comes to past injuries and accidents. A client could have had an accident with injuries ten years ago to the same body part, but I can keep that irrelevant information out of court unless the client is dishonest with me and any doctors involved. Lying about or not mentioning past injuries is a critical mistake that will come back and bite you. Remember, the insurance company already knows it anyway due to the Index System.
The fix is simple: the truth shall set you free. Admit it, because failure to do so will ALWAYS hurt your case.
Takeaway: Always be honest with both your doctors and your attorney about past accidents and injuries. Admit it and forget it!