Negotiating a car accident insurance settlement is a delicate matter. A good result – obtaining the maximum compensation for your injuries and property damages – is highly dependent upon what is said and not said at the scene of the accident.
As you know, a car accident is very traumatic, even with relatively minor injuries and damages. In the aftermath, people frequently say things that hurt their case. They might do things such as admit fault, threaten to file suit, curse the other driver and so on. The most important thing to do after the car accident is to stay calm. If you do not, it can damage your chances when negotiating your car accident insurance settlement.
Do Not Admit Anything That Hurts Your Case
The first thing to remember is to not say anything at the accident scene that will negatively affect a car accident claim later. This is generally called ‘admissions against interest.’ They are unsolicited statements made by a plaintiff. Some of the most common admissions that people make in the wake of an accident are:
- Sorry, I did not see you.
- I was on the phone, or I was texting.
- I was talking to someone in the car.
- My tires are old and I could not stop in time.
- I just looked down to change the radio station.
- I am not injured.
Any of these statements can lead to very serious problems when you and your personal injury attorney are negotiating a car accident insurance settlement.
Another one that can trip you up is if the insurance adjuster for the other party calls you. Even if you just say ‘I am fine’ after she asks ‘how are you?’, this can damage your claim.
What Not to Do During Settlement Negotiations
Now that you understand the importance of not saying the wrong thing after the accident and to the insurance adjuster, there are some other things to remember to not do to improve the odds of a fair car accident settlement:
#1 Do Not Be Overly Friendly With the Insurance Adjuster
You should not be rude to the insurance adjuster, but do not be overly polite and friendly. It is important to go into negotiations with toughness. You believe that your side of the story is correct, and you will need to present it well to win. The last thing you want is the insurance adjuster to play games with you and get you to settle for as little as possible. Set a strong business tone in the first phone call.
#2 Do Not Give a Recorded Statement
Any phone call the insurance adjuster has with you will be recorded unless you say no. You should not allow the phone call to be recorded unless your attorney is on the phone with you. A recorded statement will set the limits for the case going forward, and this is not a good idea. Only the insurance company benefits from the recorded statement.
#3 Don’t Let Your Guard Down
Every insurance adjuster has been trained to get you to talk informally and to take down your guard. They attempt to get you to relax so that you will say things that harm the case. If you are too relaxed, it is much easier for the adjuster to get admissions out of you.
#4 Do Not Give Your Opinion
When you are first talking to the adjuster about the accident, all you should talk about are the facts, such as when/where of the crash; your contact information and personal details; and location of your vehicle.
You only should get into more detailed facts of the case later, and ideally when you are represented by an attorney.
#5 Do Not Lie
In any car accident settlement negotiation, it is always the rule to stick to the truth. Lying will serve no purpose at all. If the insurance adjuster figures out you are lying, your negotiating power will vanish because nothing you say will be taken seriously.
#6 Do Not Sign Medical Releases…Yet
When you are getting close to the end of your treatment, you can sign a medical release form that will give the insurance company copies of your medical records. The adjuster does not need this information until you are at or near the end of your medical treatment. However, do not give the insurance company access to ALL of your medical records. It is recommended to only give them access to records after the accident occurred. Insurance companies like to comb medical records and find an ‘alternative explanation’ for your injuries that are not related to the accident.
#7 Do Not Give Your SS#
Giving out your Social Security gives them access to much of your personal information. Even though it is not allowed, they might use it to check your credit score and other information that can be used against you.
#8 Do Not Talk About Injuries from Before the Accident
If you admit that you had an earlier injury before your doctor weighs in on your condition, this can really damage car accident settlement negotiations with insurance. The adjuster will try to claim that your accident injury is related to the previous injury and not the accident. Your doctor needs to evaluate how the injuries are related.
#9 Never Claim You Have Whiplash Unless You Actually Do
Clams adjusters hear it all, and one of the most common is people falsely trying to claim whiplash to collect a settlement check after a car accident. Whiplash IS real and can be very painful, but you should not discuss it unless you have been diagnosed by a doctor. Adjusters have even been known to dispute whiplash that has been medically diagnosed. Claiming it without medical proof will guarantee a fight with the insurance company.
#10 Do Not Exaggerate
Claims adjusters are trained and experienced and can usually tell if you are not telling the full truth. If you make any exaggeration at all, you must remember it every time you talk to her. It’s not just wrong; it’s very difficult. The smart thing to do is to tell the truth.
#11 Do Not Give Out Personal Information Of Other Parties
Adjusters do not need the personal details of your friends, family and work references. Of course, witness personal and contact information is fine.
#12 Do Not Assume the Claim Will Settle
Most personal injury claims settle out of court, but not always. Things that you say during negotiations could come out at trial, so always assume that you will need to go to court, and be prepared to hire an attorney to file a car accident lawsuit just in case.
#13 Do Not Try to Answer Everything
If you cannot accurately answer a question, do not try to do so. Just say you do not know or cannot remember.
The best thing to do after a car accident – after you have taken care of your medical needs – is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. The attorney will probably be much more effective in negotiating a car accident insurance settlement than you will be, and will be able to adise you when settlement negotiations break down and it’s time to file a lawsuit.