Following a car accident, your insurance company should know what happened, even if you were not to blame. You might need to use your UM/UIM coverage, MedPay, or PIP policies, depending on where the accident happened and the other driver’s insurance coverage. You can only tap into your policies if you properly notify your provider.
However, always be cautious when contacting your insurer about an accident. Even if you weren’t at fault, you might unknowingly say things that make the claim process more challenging. The best decision is to hire a San Jose car accident attorney who will reliably handle all insurance communications - both with your provider and the at-fault driver’s.
“I might have been responsible for the accident.”
When speaking with the insurance company, the worst thing you can do is admit fault or say anything that causes the insurer to believe you are responsible for the accident. Even if you believe your fault played a role in the accident, you do not have all the facts and details to conclude that you were at fault. Fault is often a matter of perspective, and there may be a plethora of other factors that might have caused or contributed to the accident. If you do admit fault, the insurance company can use your words against you to leave you with no compensation whatsoever.
“I consumed alcohol or drugs before the accident.”
Another thing you should avoid telling the insurer is that you consumed drugs or alcohol before the accident. This may imply that you were driving while impaired and in an unlawful manner. Doing so can lead to a denied claim and potentially criminal charges. Many people feel pressured to admit they were drinking, even if the amount of alcohol they consumed was insignificant when the insurer finds out that they were driving home after a party.
"I feel fine," or “My injuries aren’t serious.”
After an accident, people do not like to look weak and vulnerable, so many may say things like, “Oh, I feel fine” or “There’s nothing serious with me.” However, doing so can – and most certainly will – negatively impact your ability to obtain full compensation. Downplaying your injuries to the insurance company can undermine your legal claim, even when done inadvertently. Even if you feel fine right afterward, when most people call their insurer to notify the company of the accident, there is no guarantee that you have no injuries until you seek medical attention. Many injuries, including traumatic brain injuries or internal damage, are not immediately apparent.
“I was distracted,” or “I didn’t see him coming!”
If you let your insurer know that you were distracted or did not see the other vehicle before the accident, they may use your words against you to argue that you were not paying attention to the road. When reporting your accident to the insurer, stick to the facts and avoid expressing opinions or speculating. No matter how well-intentioned your statements are, anything you say can be taken out of context to blame you for the accident.
Anything that starts with “I guess...” or “I think...”
Avoid using language that conveys doubt or uncertainty when talking to the insurance adjuster. By saying anything that starts with “I guess…” and “I think…”, you leave room for skepticism in your insurer’s mind. Guesswork and assumptions can negatively affect your claim. Instead, be clear, concise, and firm when sharing information about the accident and your injuries.
“I don’t have a car accident lawyer.”
You should have a car accident attorney on board before your first interaction with the insurance company, but it is never too late to hire one, even if your insurance claim is already pending. Remember that insurance companies are profit-driven, and paying you as little as possible helps them preserve their profits. Legal representation protects your interests, not the insurance company's. Also, if you tell the insurance company that you have a car accident lawyer, the insurer will know that you are serious about getting a fair settlement and will not tolerate any manipulations or bad-faith practices on their part.
What if the Insurance Company Asks Me to Provide a Recorded Statement?
An insurance company may contact you in the hours or days after the accident and ask you to provide a recorded statement. The insurer may even make you feel obligated to comply by saying that your cooperation will speed up the claims process or even increase the value of your claim.
While recorded statements are a routine part of the insurance claims, agreeing to have your conversation recorded can be a double-edged sword. You might inadvertently say something that the insurance company will use against you, as it can be easy to be confused by what you are saying (which is often the insurer’s intention). Insurance adjusters ask claimants questions to induce them to say things that will eventually hurt their case.
- Understand your policy and rights. Before you agree to provide a recorded statement, read your insurance policy carefully and learn more about your rights. Better yet, schedule a consultation with a car accident attorney who can review your situation and advise you on how best to proceed. Remember: You are not obligated to provide a recorded statement or sign anything until you consult with a lawyer. Any statements you provide will become part of the insurance company’s records and can potentially work against you later.
- Ask for a copy of the questions. If you decide (or your lawyer gives you a green light) to give a recorded statement, ask for a copy of the questions in advance. This will give you time to prepare and organize your thoughts. If you do not understand a question or need clarification, do not be afraid to ask the adjuster to rephrase it. You can also share the list of questions with your lawyer to discuss how to answer them properly to avoid falling into any traps.
- Stay calm and focused. If the insurance company is recording your answers, remain calm and focused when you speak. Speak slowly and clearly, and be concise. As discussed above, avoid guesswork, assumptions, and speculation. Answer the questions to the best of your ability, but do not go beyond that. If you do not remember something, do not make things up. It’s okay to say, “I don’t recall” or “I don’t know.”
- Consult with a car accident lawyer. If your insurance company requests a recorded statement, tell them you must speak with your lawyer first. A lawyer can advise you on how to proceed in your situation and determine if giving a recorded statement will strengthen or jeopardize your claim.
Many claimants think recorded statements are harmless and do not understand how their words can leave them without the compensation they deserve. Once you provide your recorded statement, it can be introduced as evidence at trial and played in front of a judge or jury if your case goes to court.
What Information Should I Provide to the Insurance Company?
When you report your accident to the insurance company, the insurer will most likely ask you to provide essential information about the accident, including:
- Information of all parties involved in the accident. When filing an insurance claim, you must provide all relevant information regarding the parties involved in the accident, including their name, addresses, and contact information. You will also have to provide the vehicle's license plate number and insurance information.
- Basic information about the accident. Stick to the basics when explaining what happened during the accident. This basic information will typically include the date, time, and location of the accident and any relevant information regarding traffic, weather conditions, or road conditions at the time of the crash. If you took any pictures at the accident scene, including photos showing the damages on the vehicles and any injuries you have sustained, the insurer may ask you to add them to your claim.
- Proof of your losses. If you are seeking compensation after the accident, you must submit documents to demonstrate proof of your losses. This includes any medical bills incurred due to your injury, car repair bills, paystubs from before the accident to show lost income, and others.
- Statement of your injuries. When making your claim, it is essential to state the injuries you have sustained during the accident as accurately as possible in terms used by your doctor after a medical examination. Ensure you mention any pre-existing conditions that may have been aggravated by the accident and provide medical records of your injuries to the insurance company. Avoid exaggerating or downplaying your injuries, as this can adversely affect your chances of obtaining fair compensation.
If the insurance company asks you to provide information about anything that does not relate to any of these four points, you can politely refuse the request and speak with a lawyer before providing any further information.
Other Things to Avoid During the Post-Accident Insurance Claims Process
The outcome of your insurance claim depends not only on what you tell your insurance company after an accident but also on what you do. Among the things you want to avoid doing during the insurance claims process are:
Neglecting your medical treatment
A common mistake accident victims make after an accident is failing to seek prompt medical treatment. Going to a doctor will establish a medical record that can serve as evidence when you file an insurance claim. If your doctor prescribes treatment, follow the treatment plan. If you don’t, the insurance company is likely to interpret it as a lack of seriousness about your injury.
Posting on social media about the accident or injuries
Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are part of our everyday life. Being in an accident, especially if you suffered an injury, may lead to views and reactions from empathetic followers. Still, it is best to refrain from posting anything that relates to your accident and injuries on social media until your claim is settled. Insurance adjusters can use your social media posts as evidence to discredit your claim, provide a lower settlement offer, or deny compensation altogether.
Trying to manage your case on your own
While it is understandable that you want to save money by not hiring a lawyer, not having legal representation can actually cost you more in the long run. Without legal representation, you may not be aware of your rights and the full value of your claim. Insurance companies are known for offering lowball settlements, delaying the claims process, and employing other dishonest tactics when dealing with unrepresented claimants.
Accepting the first settlement offer immediately
The first settlement offer that the insurance company presents to you may seem like an adequate amount, especially if you haven’t calculated your damages and losses yet. However, no matter how tempting it may be to accept the offer immediately, you might want to resist the urge to settle until you talk to a lawyer. Keep in mind that the first offer is not the final offer. Insurance companies often offer a low amount initially, hoping that you will take it and close the case. Your lawyer will evaluate the insurer’s offer and, if the proposed amount is inadequate, prepare a counteroffer.
Signing anything without understanding
Before signing any document or form related to your insurance claim, make sure that you completely understand what you are agreeing to. Insurance companies may try to settle the case quickly by asking you to sign a release of liability form. Once you sign, you automatically forfeit your right to pursue further compensation in relation to the accident. Have your personal injury lawyer review any document or form the insurer asks you to sign to understand the implications.