We are all required to have car insurance, and we all assume that our insurance company will be there for us after an accident. But insurance companies make money by limiting or denying claims. Therefore, their interests are not aligned with yours. While they legally have to pay legitimate claims, many insurers will look for any reason to limit or absolve them of that legal duty.
For these reasons, you need to be very careful when speaking to your own insurer after an accident. Some basic tips are provided below.
Things to avoid when reporting the crash
Don’t lie – but don’t offer unsolicited details, either: It is illegal to lie to your insurer about the details of a claim. Therefore, you need to be truthful in your answers to questions. But remember that “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer if it is the truth. Also, you should avoid offering any more details than necessary, because you can’t always trust that they will be taken the way you intended.
Don’t fill in details you don’t have: After an accident, you likely won’t have a perfectly clear memory of everything that happened and why. If you are unclear on certain details, don’t offer conjecture as to what may have happened – especially if it paints you as being at fault.
Don’t admit fault: Car accidents are not always one-sided events. Even if the other driver was primarily at fault for the crash, you may bear some amount of responsibility. But be very careful about saying this to your insurer, and avoid doing so if you can. Something as simple as admitting you looked down at your phone for a moment could be used against you later to deny or limit your claim. You don’t actually need to determine fault on either side. You can simply wait for the investigation to play out (including the police report, an attorney inquiry, etc.).
Don’t prematurely say that you are unhurt: Injuries sometimes take a while to manifest after a car accident. If your insurer asks about injuries, avoid saying “I’m fine” until you are absolutely sure that’s true. If you haven’t been checked out by a doctor or let enough time pass, you may think you’re unhurt. But once you say something to your insurer, you could have a very difficult time trying to amend that statement later. Your insurer will always want the least expensive version of the story to be the official one.
Don’t give an official statement until you are ready: Often, an insurer will ask to record your initial conversation so it can be used as the official statement. You have the right to refuse. Even if they do record, you can clearly say: “this is not my official statement. It is a preliminary report only.”
The aftermath of a car accident can be confusing. If you aren’t sure what to do next, consider contacting a personal injury attorney to discuss your options.