If you were hurt in a traffic accident, chances are you’ll need to speak with your own insurance company to make sure they pay for your medical care, vehicle repairs, or other crash-related expenses.
But you can’t always trust your insurer to treat you fairly, even though you are their customer and you’ve paid your premiums. If you say the wrong thing, you might even lose benefits and damage your right to seek compensation from others.
Here’s a primer on how accident insurance works and what car accident lawyers advise on what you should not say to your insurance company (and anyone else’s) after an accident.
Insurance That May Cover You in an Accident
Insurance plays a role in the aftermath of virtually every traffic accident in the United States—some five to seven million crashes annually, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Auto and health insurance predominate, but other types of insurance can also figure in the mix following an accident.
Auto insurance can cover many costs of a car accident. For the most part, you must submit a claim under an auto insurance policy for the insurer to pay these expenses.
Some forms of auto insurance are mandatory and feature in most post-accident scenarios. All states, for example, require drivers to carry auto insurance that covers their liability for the harm they cause to other people in a crash.
In some states, drivers must also carry insurance to cover their own injuries and financial losses in a car accident, known as “no-fault” or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance.
Other forms of auto coverage are optional but extremely common. For instance, most drivers elect to carry insurance covering damage to their vehicle in an accident, known as collision coverage. Many also carry coverage for their injuries and losses if they get into an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver who cannot pay their expenses.
Many Americans are covered by health insurance, including private employer-provided plans and government programs like Medicare. If a crash sends you to the hospital or an urgent care clinic, chances are the doctor will turn first to your health insurance to pay for your care.
Often, a medical provider will bill your insurance directly for your treatment—and you will only find out about the charges weeks or months later. But sometimes, you might need to submit a claim to your health insurer to cover costs.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Workers’ compensation insurance may cover the cost of your medical care and some of your financial losses if you get hurt in an accident while driving or riding in a vehicle as part of your job.
Most employers in the United States must purchase a workers’ comp policy to protect their employees against such expenses. Depending upon your state, obtaining workers’ comp benefits may involve submitting a claim to your employer or workers’ comp insurance company or filling out paperwork for your medical provider to submit on your behalf.
Long-Term Disability Insurance
A long-term disability (LTD) insurance policy covers costs associated with suffering a disabling injury that prevents you from returning to work after an accident. Some employers provide LTD insurance to their employees as a benefit.
It’s also possible to purchase an individual LTD insurance policy. You generally must submit a claim under your long-term disability policy to have the insurer pay for your covered expenses and financial losses.
Required Contact With Insurance Companies
Many insurance policies require you (or your attorney) to communicate with an insurance company about your accident to obtain benefits. That’s usually the case for insurance you have purchased (your auto or health insurance, for example) and workers’ compensation coverage paid for by your employer.
For example, you might have to:
- Submit a claim to your insurance company requesting payment of your accident-related expenses;
- Speak with an adjuster from your insurance company about your accident, your injuries, and your losses;
- Share certain documentation with your insurer, like medical records regarding your accident-related injuries or repair estimates from a garage.
However, just because you’re required to have contact with these insurance companies does not mean you have to tell them everything they want to know.
In some cases, your insurance company might even try to take advantage of your obligation to speak to them to ask you questions you have no duty to answer.
Optional Contact With Insurance Companies
Some insurance companies with a financial interest in your accident might want to connect with you directly, even though you aren’t their customer. Insurers often do this when someone else’s careless actions caused your accident, putting them on the hook for your or someone else’s losses.
For example, a representative of someone else’s insurance company may reach out to you requesting:
- That you give a recorded statement to their investigator;
- That you send them documentation about your injuries or losses;
- You allow them to inspect your damaged vehicle or speak with third parties you hired.
You generally have no legal or contractual obligation to speak or share information with these insurance companies. It’s usually safest to leave all initial communications with these insurers to an experienced attorney representing your interests and to speak directly with them only with your attorney’s guidance and support.
What Not to Say to Your (or Anyone Else’s) Insurance Company
Before speaking with a representative of any insurance company—either yours or someone else’s—it pays to understand the stakes and what you say and what not to say to your insurance company after an accident.
Let’s look at what insurance companies might want from a conversation with you and what you should NOT say to keep yourself protected.
What Insurance Companies Want out of a Conversation With You
Insurance companies generally have two separate, but related, motivations for wanting to speak with you:
- To verify the information supporting your claim or potential claim, to satisfy themselves that they have a contractual obligation under the insurance policy to pay for your accident-related expenses, and
- To identify any facts and arguments they can use to limit the size of their financial obligation to you or to avoid paying for your losses altogether.
These motivations can put you, the person claiming compensation under an insurance policy, in a bind. On the one hand, you want the insurer to be able to confirm that you have a valid claim, and you recognize it’s in your interest to give them the information necessary to do that.
On the other hand, you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot—giving them too much or the wrong kind of information that could end up supplying the insurer with a reason not to pay for your accident.
What Not to Say to an Insurer to Avoid Making a Costly Mistake
In other words, taking an insurer after an accident is like walking a tightrope. Your goal is to reveal only as much information as the insurance company needs and has a right to ask for, but not a shred more.
As we discuss below, an experienced lawyer can guide you in this balancing act, which is why we always recommend hiring one before speaking with an insurance company representative, if possible.
But if you find yourself on the phone or face-to-face with an insurance adjuster before you have a lawyer on your side, here’s what not to say:
- Do not agree to a recorded conversation without first checking your policy or with a lawyer to see if that’s required.
- Do not disclose information the insurer doesn’t specifically request or answer questions the adjuster doesn’t ask.
- Do not agree to release medical records to the insurer without first checking with a lawyer about what you must disclose.
- Do not speculate about facts you don’t personally know.
- Do not offer your opinion about who was at fault.
- Do not even partially blame yourself, like by saying that you’re sorry you didn’t stop sooner or that you should have seen the other car coming.
- Do not minimize your injury’s severity or the difficulty of your recovery by saying you feel ok or that you’re healing quickly.
- Do not adopt the adjuster’s version or restatement of your accident or injuries—always insist on using your own words.
- Do not lie or exaggerate about the accident or your injuries.
- Do not agree to settle your claim or that someone other than the insurer should probably pay for part of it.
Remember, what seems like a friendly, supportive conversation with an insurance adjuster can be a dangerous minefield of loaded questions and manipulative tactics. You must navigate any interaction carefully to keep your rights safe.
Why Hiring an Accident Lawyer Is the Better Option Than Learning How to Deal with Insurance Companies After an Accident
If your reaction to our list of what not to say to an insurance company after an accident is that it seems like a lot to keep in mind, you’re not wrong. Staying on the right side of those warnings doesn’t come easy to most people in your situation.
You already have injuries and financial losses to worry about, and the last thing you want to stress over is how to deal with insurance companies after an accident.
Fortunately, you have another, safer option. Hiring an experienced accident attorney can protect you from the pitfalls of talking directly to an insurance company.
Significantly, in most instances, an insurance company must deal only with your lawyer, which saves you from receiving unexpected, aggressive phone calls from insurance adjusters.
A lawyer can also:
- Review your legal rights under your own insurance policies and policies carried by others that might cover your injuries and losses;
- Prepare and submit a claim for benefits under any applicable policy;
- Respond on your behalf to insurance company inquiries;
- Evaluate whether and how you should disclose particular information to an insurance company;
- Support and advocate for you in connection with any live statement you decide to give to an insurer;
- Negotiate with an insurance company to secure the maximum settlement available;
- Pursue a lawsuit or other legal action to force an insurance company or at-fault party to pay you damages for your accident losses;
- Appear in court on your behalf, including taking your case to trial in front of a judge and jury.
Most accident lawyers will provide these services to you on a contingent fee basis. That means they will not charge you upfront fees or bill you by the hour.
Instead, they’ll go to work in exchange for receiving a percentage of any money they secure on your behalf. You only pay them if they get you results.
Contact an Accident Lawyer Who Can Handle Your Insurance Company Communications
If you suffered harm in an accident, insurance could probably play a role in compensating you for your losses. Your interactions with insurers can affect your legal rights, so it’s essential to exercise caution and not say the wrong thing.
Following the tips above can help, but the safest route is usually to trust an experienced lawyer to handle dealings with the insurers who owe you money for your accident.