Communications with Third Parties After an Accident
Generally, when you are involved in a personal injury claim, it is advised that you use extreme caution when discussing your accident with any third parties, such as insurance companies, or in public forums, such as on social media websites. To protect your claim, you should not provide recorded statements about the accident to the insurance company providing liability coverage for the accident. With that being said, you may be required to provide a recorded statement to your own insurance company for underinsured motorist (UIM) or uninsured motorist (UM) claims.
It is important to be careful in communicating with third parties such as the insurance company when it comes to the details surrounding your personal injury claim. If an attorney represents you, you should not speak to the insurance company, as your attorney will do so on your behalf.
If you are handling your personal injury claim on your own, remember that anything that you say can and likely will be used against you. Insurance companies train their employees and adjusters to attempt to trap accident victims into saying things they may not mean. This is why it is important for your conversations with insurance companies to be planned, concise and informed. You should only give the insurance company information that is required in order for you to open a claim. This information generally includes:
- Date of the incident
- Location of the incident
- Names of the parties involved
Private or detailed information such as your driver’s license number, Social Security number or details regarding your medical injuries are not always necessary, and you should refrain from providing such information unless it is absolutely needed for your claim. It is essential that you keep your discussion about your injuries with the insurance company to a minimum. Politely but firmly state that your injuries and treatment will be provided in your demand package at a later date.
Ideally, you should only speak to the insurance company on three occasions if you do not have an attorney representing you.
Call Number 1: Opening the Claim
In the first call, you will open the claim by providing the insurance company with limited information, such as the date of accident, location of accident, your name, and the name and policy number of their insured driver (at-fault driver).
Call Number 2: Initial Offer or Denial
In the second call, you will be informed of either an initial offer or denial. This call should take place after you have sent the insurance company your medical bills and records in the form of a demand package. During this phone call, you should ask for a breakdown of the offer or a reason for a denial. Politely state that you will review the offer and be back in touch.
Call Number 3: Negotiation
In the third call, you will negotiate with the insurance company after you have had a reasonable amount of time to review the initial offer. The negotiation process can take several calls to resolve.
Online and Social Media
In today’s society, posting content online via social media applications such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook has become the norm. While it may be the popular thing to do, it can be detrimental to your personal injury claim. If you choose to use social media, be mindful of any pictures, comments or status updates that you post because they can be used as evidence against you. Since social media is a public platform, insurance companies can often easily access any information that you post online. Insurance companies will look online to see if you post pictures or mention anything that could negatively affect your personal injury claim, such as anything related to physical activity (that your injuries should prevent you from doing), drugs or alcohol. For example, if you post a picture on Facebook of you and some close friends dancing at a nightclub for your birthday two days after the accident, insurance companies can use this picture as evidence to diminish the severity of your injuries.
In North Carolina, if you delete any content that you have posted online, that act may be used against you in your personal injury claim as it may be considered destruction of evidence. Deleting this type of evidence can affect the outcome of your personal injury claim. The best practice is to make your entire Internet existence private, rather than deleting the content after it has been posted. For more information on how social media can play a role in your personal injury claim, please read this article.
Final Note: In order to gather evidence against you in your personal injury claim, insurance companies may choose to hire private investigators to conduct surveillance to help build their case. These investigators are looking to obtain evidence of you performing tasks that one typically should not perform based on their injuries. Therefore, it is always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and any activities that you are performing publicly. Above all, it is important that you recognize the effect your interactions with third parties can have on your claim and exercise caution in your communications following an accident.