- A Practical Guide for Dealing with Insurance Companies Regarding Recorded Statements on Motor Vehicle Accident Cases in Florida
- September 25, 2012 | Author: David L. Goldman
- Law Firm: Shapiro, Goldman, Babboni & Walsh - Sarasota Office
- After The Accident:
You were just involved in a motor vehicle accident. You get home from the Emergency Room or from seeing your doctor, when one or more insurance company claims representatives are either on the phone or at your house asking you to provide them with a recorded statement. You are disoriented, in pain and a bit in shock. Although the person from the insurance company is courteous, they are persistent in wanting to take your statement, and you suspect that they might not be acting in your best interests. What should you do? Will you lose your insurance or forfeit your claim if you don’t cooperate?
It is important to first identify which insurance company is asking for your recorded statement. You are legally obligated to provide your own automobile insurance company with a recorded statement. When you bought your automobile insurance you signed a contract, even if you purchased your auto insurance online. Somewhere in the fine print of that contract there is language about your duty to cooperate with the insurance company, which does in fact mean that you must provide your insurance company with a recorded statement. Failure to cooperate can in fact void or cancel your policy.
Nevertheless, if you have retained or are about to retain a lawyer, the insurance company representative MUST communicate directly with the lawyer and not with you, the client.
Therefore the best course of action whenever anyone asks you to provide them with a recorded statement - is to politely inform them that you have hired a lawyer, and provide the law firm’s name and phone number to the insurance company employee.
At that point when the insurance company representative has been specifically informed that you have retained legal counsel they must then contact your lawyer in order to arrange for a recorded statement. You are acting properly when you courteously decline to give a recorded statement at that time and inform the claims representative that you hired a law firm, and refer them to your lawyer who will then schedule the recorded statement at a mutually agreeable date and time.
Most of the time, you are not obligated to provide a recorded statement to the at-fault party’s insurance company. Unlike your automobile insurance company, you did not sign a contract with the other person’s insurance company. There are some instances where you are in fact required to give the other side’s insurance company a recorded statement, particularly if you are looking to receive any payment from the other side’s no-fault or other first party insurance carrier.
It is always a good idea and it is always helpful to be polite but firm when informing the insurance company claims adjuster to contact your lawyer, especially if the claims representative is acting rudely or is overly aggressive. Getting into an angry and heated argument with the insurance company representative can be unhelpful to your case.
You must remember that just as your lawyer understands what your rights and legal recourse are, the same holds true for the insurance company. For example, if you have an altercation or fight with the insurance company representative from your own auto insurance company, they will likely schedule an “Examination Under Oath” which is like a deposition and you would have to appear before a court reporter and answer questions from the insurance company’s lawyer. If you get into an angry exchange with the claims representative from the other side’s insurance company, they may be less likely to make a fair and reasonable offer on your case, which will at a minimum delay the resolution of your case.
We believe there are several reasons why insurance companies want to take recorded statements from individuals who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents. Often times there are legitimate issues that need to be addressed and the only way to get a good answer is to take a recorded statement. Yet sometimes claims adjusters may look to intimidate or confuse people who have been in an accident. The purpose of the recorded statement then becomes something of a game where the adjuster attempts to trap or trick people into saying something that can be taken out of context and used against them in court. This is why your lawyer needs to be present whenever you give a recorded statement.
It must be remembered that insurance companies are very competitive profit-driven corporations. Claims representatives are under tremendous pressure not to pay money, or pay less money, on injury claims. Each year the insurance industry expends tremendous financial resources to hire investigators, claims adjusters and attorneys to defend and deny injury claims. This pressure to save the company money and increase profitability applies to each and every insurance company claims representative. Consequently, the recorded statement of accident victims can become an opportunity for the insurance company to negatively impact one’s personal injury case, particularly if the accident victim’s lawyer is not there to protect them.
Does The Insurance Adjuster Record Your Phone Conversations?
How can a person know if their conversation is being recorded by the insurance company? From a legal standpoint, the most important question concerns the consent of the person being recorded. For instance, when you leave a message after an answering machine asks you to leave a message you gave your consent to be recorded. When you call the insurance company and a recorded voice says “some calls may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes” you did not give your consent to be recorded. Therefore the insurance company claims representative will usually begin the recorded statement by asking you if you understand you are being recorded and that it is being done with your permission. They will even ask you for your permission to turn off the tape recorder after the statement has concluded.
For most people who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents, aggressive attempts at obtaining recorded statements from accident victims without their lawyer being present may feel like the insurance company is adding insult to injury. In reality, there can be legitimate and valid reasons for obtaining your recorded statement. Yet without an attorney being present, recorded statements can provide an opportunity for insurance company representatives to create mischief and mayhem to an individual’s legitimate injury case. This is a very real concern, particularly when considering today’s unrelenting competitive corporate pressure on insurance company claims representatives to save money.
Fortunately, one can easily protect their rights and avoid most of these problems by calmly and politely instructing the insurance company representative to contact your lawyer to schedule a recorded statement.