You've been in an accident. I'm sorry to hear it. Accidents really, really stink.
At this point, you've probably started thinking about your insurance claim and who is going to pay for your damages and injuries. You might have even contacted (or been contacted by) the insurance company. But are you wondering what you're supposed to say? How much should you tell the insurance company?
First Thing's First - Who's At-Fault?
After an accident, there are a few big questions we need to get out of the way. Namely, who caused the wreck?
This is important because whoever caused the accident will also be responsible for paying for the damages and injuries it caused (using their insurance). So if Bob rear-ended you and sent you to the hospital with whiplash, you'll contact Bob's insurance company to make a claim. Assuming Bob was 100% at-fault, his insurance will pay your medical bills and car repairs, plus any wages you missed out on while you were recovering and missing work.
Not sure who's at-fault in your accident? Do you think both drivers could be partially to blame? Read my helpful article on the subject first.
Once you determine who's going to be paying for the damage, you'll need to contact that person's insurance company.
Should I Tell the Adjuster the Truth?
Simply put, yes. You should ALWAYS tell the insurance adjuster the truth about the accident, what happened and who's responsible. Insurance fraud is a serious crime and should not be taken lightly.
With that being said, there are two big things you should never agree to give the insurance company: a recorded statement and your medical records.
Here's the deal: insurance adjusters are employees of a company. And what do all companies want? To make money. While there's nothing wrong with making money, the problem comes in the way insurance companies work. The more money they pay out in claims, the less they get to keep for themselves. Unfortunately, this creates some skewed incentives.
When you talk to the insurance adjuster, you must be very weary, particularly if your accident involves major damages and injuries (and therefore lots of money). Adjusters are trained to look for ways to lower the value of your claim.
What to Withhold: A Recorded Statement
I talk about this subject at length in my article: Should I Give The Insurance Company a Recorded Statement?
However, the short version is this: a recorded statement is just as it sounds. It's a conversation between you and your insurance adjuster that they record for later use. However, these recorded statements can't help you and they can only hurt you. Insurance adjusters will ask you questions about the accident and your part in it and, depending on your answers, they'll use it to devalue your claim.
For example, a common question during a recorded statement is "What did you say to the other driver after the accident?" You might tell the adjuster that you asked if everyone was okay and said you were sorry. It's our gut reaction to apologize, even if the wreck wasn't your fault, but an adjuster will take this as an admission of guilt - meaning they can devalue or deny your claim.
Don't ever give a recorded statement. It's not required by law and the adjuster does NOT need it to complete your claim.
What to Withhold: Your Medical Records
This is another topic I've discussed before - you can find that article here.
However, here's a quick summary. Just like with a recorded statement, releasing your medical records to your insurance adjuster can't help you and it could hurt you.
Why would an insurance adjuster want your medical history? They're looking for previous injuries. So let's use the Bob example again. Bob rear-ends you and sends you to the hospital with whiplash. You're diagnosed with a neck and back sprain and complain of constant back pain. You want Bob's insurance company to pay for all the medical costs associated with this.
But uh-oh. Looks like you had surgery five years ago on your back for a different issue. Despite the fact that you know your pain is related to the accident, an adjuster will see that in your medical history and use it as a reason to doubt and deny your claim. They'll argue that the wreck didn't cause your injury since you've had back pain before.
Of course this is bogus, but it's why you should never release your medical history. You are NOT required to do so.
Do You Need an Attorney?
Not every accident warrants hiring a lawyer. However, if you were in a major accident with lots of damages and big injuries, hiring an attorney could do you a lot of good.
Not sure if hiring a lawyer is right for you? Read my article here to help you figure it out.