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. The bottom line is that if an insurance company is calling and wants to speak with you – call a lawyer first.
The insurance company is worried about one thing: your potential claim against them, and then having to pay out that claim.
Why does the insurance company keep calling? The insurance company is calling 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 entirely.
As stated in the beginning, you do not have to speak to the insurer. 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 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. Still, 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 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 – also – you’re telling the truth, so why not sign?
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 on 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 someone may need to speak to an insurer early on 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. There also may be a 10-day notice requirement in some of these cases, and 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 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.