The Insurance Company is Not on Your Side
After you have been involved in a car accident, the insurance company of the driver who hit you may contact you. Your insurance company will contact you as well. Your insurance company is not calling to help you. If your accident involves a car that has no insurance or a very low insurance policy, you may have a right to obtain money from your insurance company. It is the job of the insurance adjuster to settle with you for as little amount of money as possible. They may also deny your claim even though you may be entitled to money damages.
Once an insurance company has knows about the accident, it will open it claim file. They may send an investigator to determine who caused the accident. The insurance adjuster may offer money to settle the case. Don't take it. They make act like your friend, but they are not. It is their job for you to settle your claim for as little as possible.
Talking to an Insurance Adjusters is a Risk
It is the job of the insurance agent to obtain as much information as possible. They will ask you how the accident happened in full detail. Since they are usually friendly, may people that they can be open about them. However, unless they are ready to offer the policy on the spot. K.I.S.S. your conversation (Keep It Short and Simple). Let them know that you are planning on hiring an attorney and would prefer to have him speak to them.
If not, the insurance adjuster will try to have you make a recorded statement. Avoid it. You can also let them know that if you commence a lawsuit, under New York Law, the lawyers for the insurance company will have an opportunity to get a full statement at the examination before trial (otherwise known as an EBT or Deposition). Tell them you want to speak to your lawyer first before making a statement.
It is the insurance company's job to ask you the same questions as many times as possible. They hope that you will make an inconsistent statement which they will use against you at a later date. Just be polite and if you feel forced, just answer yes, no or I don't know.
What To Do If You Have No Choice Other Than To Cooperate Necessary
You may have no choice other than to speak to the insurance adjuster. In New York, there is a law called no-fault. If you think that the courts are flooded with lawsuits now, back when I first started practicing over 20 years ago it was even worse. People were suing for very small injuries. For example, people would suffer a bruise or a cracked toenail. The injury would heal in a couple of weeks and they would be fine. Lawyers would commence suit and they would be able to recover maybe $750-$3000. But the cases were clogging up the court system. So New York State passed a law called no-fault. Under the law, your insurance company is required to pay your medical bills, no matter whose fault it was. However, you must be seriously injured.
A serious injury is defined by NY Insurance Law § 5102(d) as an injury resulting in: (1) death, (2) dismemberment, (3) significant disfigurement, (4) fracture, (5) loss of a fetus, (6) permanent and total loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system, (7) permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member, (8) a significant limitation of use of a body function or system, and (9) a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person's usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.
They may ask you basic questions about any medical attention that you receive and the body parts where you sustained an injury. Be very general, state the facility and the general body parts that hurt. Make sure to state every body part that is hurt. Otherwise, they may claim that you didn't hurt it in the subject accident.
What Is the Lawyer's Role With Speaking With the Adjuster?
There is no more important job as my role as a lawyer than with my conversations with the adjuster. Nearly all cases are settled prior to the trial. In automobile accidents in New York, in most cases, it is the adjuster who will have the final say about how much your case will settle. The insurance company's attorney usually tells the adjuster about the law. However, the money negotiations are usually between the insurance adjuster and the attorney. It is the job of the attorney to describe in the light most favorable to you as to how the accident happened, the injuries you sustained, and how much the case is really worth.
Negotiating with an adjuster is an art and it takes experience. It's my job to know your case cold. It's my job to know the value of your case taking consideration how the accident happened, the injuries you sustained, your age, and the county you are in.