If you have recently been in a car accident or had a slip or trip and fall or another injury, chances are one or more insurance companies have reached out to you. If these people contact you do you have to speak with them? The strict answer is no, however there are circumstances where you may want to talk to them, but what you say to them is very important. Bottom line is that if an insurance company is calling and wants to speak with you – call a lawyer first.
The insurance companies that are going to contact you after an injury are worried about one thing: you making a claim against them, and them having to pay out that claim. The only exception is if the insurance company that is calling you is your own insurance company and you have the potential to make a first party statutory accident benefits claim arising out of a car accident – see articles here.
Why does the insurance company keep calling? The insurance company is calling for one reason – to get information from you. Why do they want information? They want information for two reasons. The first is to understand how your injury happened, and the second is they want to take early steps to limit the amount of money they will end up paying, or potentially get information to allow them to defeat your claim right off the bat.
As stated at the beginning you do not have to speak to these insurance companies that call. If you have been injured in a car accident or slip and fall or other negligence-type circumstance the first thing you should do is contact a lawyer. The insurance company would tell you that they need some basic information from you so that they can consider whether or not they can help you with some of your medical expenses. I can tell you that it is extraordinarily rare, as in almost never, that an insurance company will pay for an injured person’s upfront medical expenses. They will say the same thing about your income loss. They will say “we just need to know if you are working and if you are losing any income so that I can report to my superiors and they can figure out if they can help you with your circumstances.” Really what they are trying to do is gather information to assess the strength of your claim and the size of an insurance payout that they might be exposed to on a full claim. Most of the information they are looking for are things that your injury lawyer will end up sharing with them eventually anyway, but it’s all about the method and timing of communication. The insurance company will also want to know how your injury happened. What was the weather like? What was the lighting like? Were you on any medication? Were there any witnesses? They will ask to have one of their investigators or adjusters come meet with you and when that person shows up they will want to take a statement and then have you sign it. If you are dealing with the immediate fallout of an injury it will be difficult for you to communicate effectively with these people and to make sure that all of the important facts get into the statement and in the correct way. At the end of your interview with the insurance company they will ask you to sign the statement and you will find it very difficult not to do so because the person there is an experienced investigator and they will be very friendly. You don’t want to seem unreasonable. Two years later when you are working with your lawyer and you are headed to court you will be confronted with your signed statement that in reflection has some inaccuracies in it. It is not complete. Why is that? Because you shouldn’t have ever been there being asked those questions in the first place. This all makes your claim and your injury lawyer’s job very difficult. It can also reduce your injury lawyer’s ability to obtain you a fair settlement or to win at a trial.
The only other circumstance in which you may actually need to speak to an insurer is if the potential at-fault party is a municipal or public/crown entity. If the municipality or public/crown body is a potential defendant it is doubly important that you contact a lawyer immediately. There are certain things that you must say when you put these people on notice and other things that you aren’t required to say and in fact don’t want to say at all until the time is right. Public entities are subject to legislative protections that private individuals are not such that there are often extremely short notice periods for these types of claims. For example the notice period under the municipal act of Ontario for potential municipal liability coming out of a slip and fall injury on a sidewalk or failure to maintain a road which leads to a car accident subject to a 10 day notice period. If this very short notice period is not complied with there is potential that a court will ultimately bar your claim from failure to give timely notice.
If an insurance company is calling and wants to speak with you – call a lawyer first. Most injury lawyers are like our firm and will give you a 30 minutes to 1-hour consultation for free and will give you an overview of your rights and the law. No matter what happens after the meeting you will be in a much better position to deal with the insurance company.