It’s the day after a serious car accident. The events of yesterday are a blur. You are hurting. You are stiff. For many people, the first few hours and days after a serious car accident are a time of increasing pain. Hopefully, you’ve never experienced this. Those who have will understand.
You are hurting. You start to worry about your health. You start to worry about work. You are probably worried about your car. You may have lots of concerns and questions. That’s when you receive the call. An adjuster calls. Often, the adjuster calls with a friendly voice. She wants you to think you are in good hands. She sounds helpful. She may even tell you to send your medical bills and sign paperwork so they can get your records. She hints they will pay the bills if you send them. Don’t believe it. I talk to accident victims weekly. So many of them are misled by adjusters into believing the insurance company wants their actual bills to pay each of them.
If the at-fault driver’s insurance company pays anything for your injuries, they are going to want you to sign a release giving up your claims. So, why is the adjuster calling? Why is she acting friendly at first? The truth — The insurance company is investigating the accident and you. The insurance company is gathering information. And, it will use the information to defend the claim or to pay as little as possible.
In many cases, the insurance adjuster starts asking questions about the wreck and injuries. Maybe she politely asks first if she can record your statement. Maybe she just starts asking questions. It’s OK to get the adjuster’s contact information for later. It’s OK to say you are hurt and will get back in touch once you receive more treatment. But, you should not give a recorded statement. And, you should not provide detailed facts or answers without advice.
In the first few days following a serious wreck, many injured people are hurting so badly it’s difficult to answer questions. Some people require pain medications which also make it difficult to give a statement. Do not give a recorded statement. Do not talk beyond getting contact information or dealing with your car repairs. Here are three big reasons why you should not give a recorded statement right after a serious Alabama car accident.
The Insurance Company Wants To Deny Your Claim For Contributory Negligence
Here is the reality — The adjuster probably knows a lot more about car accidents and the rules of the road than you do. Some adjusters are very skilled at asking leading questions to get the answers they want.
In Alabama, we have a doctrine called contributory negligence. It’s not fair. It’s not followed by other states. What is contributory negligence? Under this doctrine, if you are even partially at-fault (even 1%), you cannot recover for the other driver’s negligence. That’s a harsh doctrine. The adjuster knows that. So, she will likely ask leading questions to get an admission from you. Maybe she tries to get you to say you could have avoided the crash. Maybe she tries to get you to say you should have paid more attention. Maybe she just tries to get you to speculate that you could have done something to avoid all this! It’s just a little admission! The adjuster knows that most people are friendly. The adjuster knows that in the days following a crash (or any serious event), people second-guess themselves. But, that little recorded admission may be all the insurance company needs to deny your claim. Before you give a recorded statement, stop and seek some good legal advice.
Your first goal after a serious accident should be to seek medical treatment and healing. You have time in Alabama. Sometimes, people feel rushed. The insurance company knows this. The insurance company uses this to gain information. With that information, the adjuster either denies your claim or makes a lowball offer. Too many people harm their claims by giving recorded statements to the adjuster.
The Insurance Company Wants To Diminish Your Claim By Downplaying Any Injuries From The Accident
In the first few days after an accident, you may not even know how badly you are hurt. For over two decades, I’ve interviewed people suffering back pain after an event. Some of these people were hurt at work and are consulting about a possible workers’ compensation claim. Some of these people were hurt in a commercial truck or car accident and are consulting about a negligence claim. In many cases, it’s too early in the first few days after an accident to tell the extent of these back injuries. Some are simply strains that will heal. Others are serious disc or nerve injuries that won’t. And, the emergency room makes little distinction. What’s more, people with nerve impingement can progressively worsen. So, today’s pain can be much worse next week or next month. In the days following a serious accident, you may not know the full extent of your injuries.
If you give a statement to the adjuster, she may ask you questions about your health prior to the accident. She is looking to argue you had a pre-existing condition. Let’s face it — A lot of people work hard jobs and suffer periodic back pain. Just because your health wasn’t perfect in the past, that doesn’t mean the insurance company should deny or diminish your current claim. But, that’s exactly what the insurance company will do.
If you give a statement to the adjuster, she may ask you questions about your pain at the accident scene or the next day. She is looking to argue you weren’t hurt in the wreck. I’ve heard adjusters make crazy arguments that maybe you were hurt the next day. Or, maybe you were hurt a week later. The truth is that at the accident scene, you were probably full of adrenaline. In the initial shock of a crash, many people don’t feel pain. When that adrenaline wears off, they start hurting.
If you give a statement to the adjuster, she may ask you about the crash itself. Maybe she gets you to say it was minor? Maybe she gets you to say the damage wasn’t bad? Maybe she gets you to say you were just a little shaken up? She is looking to argue the impact was not that forceful so she can claim you could not have been hurt. She’s wrong. But, the insurance company will use the information against you.
The Insurance Company Want To Prepare A Defense For Any Latent Injuries You Suffered In The Car Accident
I touched on this in the prior paragraph. In the initial aftermath of an accident, many people don’t feel pain. The shock and adrenaline masks the injuries. Injured muscles also begin to tighten and hurt in the hours after a crash. So, you may not hurt at the scene.
Sometimes, serious injuries are also masked by severe pain in other parts of your body. Over the years, I’ve represented many clients where a serious neck or shoulder injury was masked by pain from the other body part. It’s very common.
In the prior paragraph, I mentioned masked injuries. Delayed or latent injuries can also be an issue. Sometimes, delay in pain or injury is simply an issue of time and adrenaline. But, this is not the only issue. For example, people who suffer a ruptured disc may feel only minimal symptoms at first. Over time, the disc worsens or the impingement upon the nerve causes increasing pain and disability. Sometimes, injuries are not realized immediately. Sometimes, injuries progress or worsen over time. I’ve counseled countless workers over the years who thought they suffered a pulled muscle in a work-related injury and kept trying to work only to discover a serious spinal injury days or weeks later. For all these reasons, you probably should not give the adjuster a recorded statement in the first days after a serious car accident.
I’ve written previously about latent or delayed injuries. You can read one of my prior posts on this issue at, Delayed Injury After A Car Accident? It’s Pretty Common.
I could write at length about these issues. I hear the TV lawyers yelling for you to call and sign with them. I don’t believe every person in a car wreck needs a lawyer. It depends on the severity of your injuries. If your injuries are severe or if you are unsure, you may need a good accident and injury lawyer. If you are not sure, get some legal advice. Don’t deal with the insurance adjuster without getting advice. Don’t feel rushed by the adjuster to resolve your injury claim.
From its office in Huntsville, the Alabama personal injury lawyers at Blackwell Law Firm represent clients across Alabama. We have prepared cases and appeared in courts statewide. If you have questions about a legal issue, we are happy to talk. Our consultations are confidential and free of charge.