Attorneys always advise people to not give a recorded statement to an insurance company. It is a knee jerk reaction for every competent personal injury lawyer. But few clients ask why they shouldn’t give a recorded statement to an insurance company. Lets explore the reasoning behind this common advice.
First, I think it is fair to ask why the statement needs to be recorded. If an insurance company needs to know what happened or what are your injuries, why can’t they just ask. Why do they insist on seeking that the answers be recorded? The purpose for the recording is for their later use. If your accident claim does not settle on terms that the insurance company wants, they want to have your recorded words on hand to compare with any statement you make later on in the case, such as in a deposition or at trail. An innocent misrecollection, accidentally leaving out a fact, or forgetting something over time helps the insurance company in defending against your claim. Any change in what you say can and will be used against you. They can then claim that you changed your story or you are inconsistent with your version of the facts. At best, they will argue that you are not a reliable witness and should not be believed. At worst they will claim that you are not truthful.
Second, if you are not represented by an attorney, you will be dealing with an experienced and trained insurance claims representative who knows his rights as well as your rights, but he is unlikely to tell you about your rights. You are therefore at a disadvantage and susceptible to unfair tactics in this early confrontation with the insurance company. You may ask at this point, “So what?” Here’s a true story: Insurance company calls accident victim and records the conversation. Claims rep: “Hi. I’m Jane from the insurance company. How are you today?” Response: “Okay.” Months later when the victim wants to settle the case and is telling the insurance company about the medical treatment he received, the claims rep interrupts and says “what do you mean you were injured. You told us two days after the accident that you were okay. We have it on tape.” Even an innocent statement can and will be used against you even if it is out of context or a complete misinterpretation of what you said.
Finally, even when you make a claim for injuries from an accident, you have certain rights of privacy. If you are not aware of your rights you are vulnerable to inappropriate questions and demands from an insurance company. Questions asking for your social security number or your medical history, even if unrelated to your injuries are typical. Providing your social security number is not necessary and, in this age of identity theft, it is a bad idea. Yet, insurance companies always ask for this information. I have seen few consumers who are willing or able to confront an insurance claims representative and question why they are asking for private information that seemingly has no relevance to the claim or issue at hand. It is the nature of insurance companies to cast a very wide net in seeking information that they may possibly want or think they may need in defending against your claim.
Insurance companies do need to investigate claims. It is important that they receive information that they need to justify payment of injury claims. However, the legitimate investigation and verification of claims can and should be done without taking advantage of unaware consumers. If you are not represented by an attorney in your claim and the insurance company calls asking for your statement, you can and should politely decline to have the statement recorded. You can and you should provide the information the insurance company needs to understand what happened in your case, but it need not be recorded. If in doubt, retain an attorney to represent you.