INSURANCE COMPANY TRICKERY: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY
I saw a generic internet article about what not to say to your insurance company. It dealt with all types of insurance claims, but there are a few things it got right for auto claims. Here is what you should remember:
- Apologizing: be careful saying you are sorry after an auto accident. It is laudable to apologize if you are at fault, but just make sure you know that you are fault before you do. In court, the other side can testify that you apologized at the scene of the collision (or after). If there is any doubt, leave it to police, insurance adjusters, and lawyers to figure out.
- Injuries: when talking to the insurance company, it is usually best to limit your discussion about your injuries. The article mentioned that the word “whiplash” could make the insurance company suspect that you are faking your injuries. Any lawyer would recommend that you avoid discussing your injuries at all. You may need to explain it to your PIP adjuster when you submit a PIP application, but you should refuse to discuss it at all with the opposing company. This is especially true right after the accident—your injuries may not have fully realized at that point, and mentioning that you are okay could harm your claim.
- Recorded statements: don’t give a recorded statement to any insurance company. There are times when you may have to, but you should consult a lawyer beforehand. Most times, a simple non-recorded statement is enough for the insurance adjuster to understand how the accident happened. Why do they want to get you on tape? Because they know that your recorded statement, compared to your discovery responses after you file a lawsuit, compared to your deposition, compared to your trial testimony, will yield some inconsistencies. They will try to make you out to be untruthful. If the judge or jury thinks you were untruthful, you will likely lose your claim.
- Meet your deadlines: Your insurance company might not tell you about the deadlines for your case. You have one year from the date of the accident to apply for PIP benefits (for Maryland PIP—other states may be different), and typically three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. There might be notice deadlines, often 180 days (six months) after the accident. If you want to be sure about your deadlines, contact a lawyer—the law is riddled with exceptions.
Just remember—the insurance companies may not be on your side. Even if it’s your policy—the other driver may not have insurance, or may not have enough insurance. If that’s the case, you could find yourself eventually arguing against your insurance company for benefits—and they consider that to be an adversarial relationship.