After you are in a car accident, an insurance adjuster is likely to call and ask to take your recorded statement about the details of the collision and any property damage or injuries. How should you respond?
It is always best to talk to a personal injury attorney before giving a statement to an insurance company (even your own insurance company). Here are several questions to consider with an attorney:
- Is the adjuster a representative of your insurance company (and your policy) or the other driver’s insurance company?
- Was the cause of the collision the other driver’s fault, or is there likely to be some shared liability?
- Did the crash only cause vehicle damage, or did it also cause injuries to you or your family members?
1. Which Insurance Company Does the Adjuster Represent?
Insurance policies require that the insured person reasonably cooperate with their own insurance company. This responsibility includes providing information and sometimes a recorded statement. However, there is no requirement to give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company.
When both drivers in a crash have the same insurance company, it is critical to ask if the adjuster is investigating under your policy or the other driver’s policy. Your own insurance company may be involved for several reasons, even if the crash was not your fault. If the other driver didn’t have insurance or didn’t have enough insurance, you may need to make a claim against your own insurance company.
2. Who Caused the Collision?
In Wisconsin, responsible parties are assigned fault for an accident. To the surprise and frustration of many victims, insurance companies will likely try to assign some percent of the fault to each driver in most accidents. However, some collisions are clearly caused by the negligence of only one of the drivers involved. The most common single-cause accident is when a person rear-ends another vehicle that is legally stopped at a stop sign, traffic light, or due to a backup in traffic. The driver has no duty to monitor the traffic behind them continually and can do little to avoid a collision from the rear. Insurance companies will usually concede that the rear-ending driver is 100% at fault for causing the collision.
If you were the injured party in a rear-end car accident when you were stopping legally, there is little risk in talking to an insurance company about how the accident happened. Use caution when discussing any injuries or medical treatment.
However, if your vehicle was not rear-ended, the insurance company for the other driver will try to get you to give information to assign some responsibility to you. Maintain caution when answering questions about your speed, the time you had to react, and how far away you were when you realized there might be a collision. For example, it is common for people to say they had “less than 5 or 10 seconds” to avoid an accident when they only had a second or two. The insurance company will exploit these inaccuracies to avoid responsibility by arguing that a person had time to prevent the collision. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you state the facts fairly and accurately to avoid having the insurance company take advantage of your inexperience in dealing with these questions.
3. Were you or a Family Member Injured in the Collision?
Damage to the Vehicle Only
If the collision has only caused damage to your vehicle and no injuries to you or your family members, it is unlikely that you will find an attorney willing to represent you for the property damage claim. You should be careful in answering questions, and it is a good idea not to allow a recorded statement the first time the insurance adjuster calls. Instead, you should ask the adjuster to call back so you have enough time to think through how you will answer some likely questions, including:
- Your route to the point of the collision.
- Your familiarity with the roads and intersections.
- Your speed before recognizing any danger.
- Whether the other driver appeared to be going faster than the speed limit.
- Any obstructions to your view of the other car.
- How much time you had to react.
- What you did to avoid the collision.
- Whether the other driver admitted responsibility at the scene
Stick to the facts and don’t be afraid to say you aren’t sure or can’t remember something if that is the truth. Finish your thoughts and don’t allow the adjuster to interrupt or try to throw you off track.
Injuries to You or a Family Member
It is essential to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before allowing an insurance company to take a recorded statement about an accident that caused injuries. Even if you aren’t sure that you want to hire an attorney, start by talking to an experienced personal injury attorney before trying to work things out on your own.
Attorneys at Habush Habush & Rottier don’t charge any upfront fees and offer a free consultation for personal injury cases across our 13 Wisconsin offices. Have you or a loved one been in an auto accident? Reach out to us for help.
Attorney Joseph M. Troy
Joe Troy is a Shareholder with the Firm. Joe had a long and distinguished career as a Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge and Chief Judge, before returning to private practice with Habush Habush & Rottier in 2007. Joe’s practice is dedicated exclusively to helping people who suffered personal injuries in accidents caused by other people’s carelessness and negligence. He has successfully recovered multi-million-dollar results for his clients in jury trials and settlements, but he has also helped hundreds of people with much smaller claims.
In 2018 he was named Personal Injury Attorney of the Year by Best Lawyers®. In 2004 he was named Wisconsin Trial Judge of the Year by the American Board of Trial Advocates. Joe is Wisconsin’s first attorney to receive these distinctions as both a judge and attorney. Joe uses his unique experience as both a judge and attorney to help people who have suffered injuries which disrupt their lives, jeopardize their financial well-being, and impacts the lives of their loved ones.