I hear this a lot before I get involved in cases and then after I get involved, my clients always tell me they wish they never had spoken to the insurance adjuster at all.
I'll be honest and reveal my thoughts and biases right from the start in this post – I don't like insurance companies. Do some good people work for insurance companies? Sure. But for the most part insurance companies are in the business of making money.
You may see television commercials telling you that your insurance company is like a good neighbor, that you are in good hands, that they will help you when something goes wrong. But don't be fooled. Insurance companies are not in the business of helping people – they are in the business of making money and protecting the bottom line. Likewise, insurance adjusters are in the same business. They are, after all, employees of the insurance company! Insurance adjusters are trained to save money on claims – they are rewarded for paying out low numbers – they are closely monitored if they pay out on claims.
Insurance adjusters are also held to time deadlines. Their business model is to speak with injured persons quickly before they hire an attorney – before they are protected. Why? It's really quite simple – if the adjuster talks to you right away, tells you she is here to help, that she will pay your bills, that she will even send you a check for $500 for your "trouble", that sounds pretty good right? Maybe you aren't very sore, maybe you are behind on your rent – and this nice lady is trying to help you! WRONG. She wants to wrap this up before you get the advice of an attorney – before the shock of the accident wears off and you realize that your back does hurt.
Sometimes, adjusters will call the injured and say they will "take care of everything" if the person just gives a quick recorded statement. BE CAREFUL. Recently, one of my clients was injured in an accident. Within an hour of being released from the emergency room, the at-fault driver's insurance adjuster called my client. This happened before he hired me. He was very heavily medicated, confused, hurting and didn't know what to do. He trusted the adjuster. After all, she said she was there to help. It turns out that everything he said to her was later twisted to deny liability and the adjuster, despite her promises, didn't pay him a dime (until I got involved).
The lesson here is that it is generally not a good idea to give a recorded statement without an attorney. In fact, it is generally a good idea to not talk to the insurance adjuster at all until you have consulted with an attorney. When in doubt, hire an injury attorney to get some advice on these issues. The insurance company is looking out for its best interests – be sure to have someone looking out for yours.
Lindsay Rakers, Missouri and Illinois injury attorney