Law Corner: The what, where and when motorists should record statements after a car accident

On occasion, individuals visit my office quite sometime after a car accident has occurred to discuss their case. During our conversation they inform me they have already provided a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance company. When I ask why a recorded statement was provided, the reply goes something like “well, the accident wasn’t my fault, so I thought, what difference could it make?”

In helping people understand when and what to say in this circumstance, I’ll begin with a question.

What should I say in a recorded statement after a car accident?

First, consider whether motorists should be making a statement at all, and whether they are legally obligated to make a recorded statement.

When discussing the motorist’s own insurance carrier, there is a legal obligation to cooperate as the adjuster investigates the accident and processes the claim. That obligation extends to giving a recorded statement and providing other requested information during the adjuster interview with the motorist’s own insurance company. It is best however to have a discussion first with an attorney to carefully go over the facts.

However, if the other side is asking for a recorded statement, it is not necessary to give one. Why not? Even if the motorist is not at fault? There are many reasons why giving a recorded statement to the other side, including the insurance company for the other driver or their attorney, is not wise. In a nutshell, making a recorded statement cannot help the motorist’s case at all; it can only help the other party.

The other side will compare every recorded statement with any other statements about the accident, such as in the police report, in the emergency room report, in the hospital record and in any statements made in the future such as in a deposition. They will try to make the most of even the smallest inconsistencies, trying to make the motorist look like they are hiding something, like they really do not remember or are a flat-out liar.

Second, an experienced adjuster for the other side knows how to frame questions in ways that will lead to potentially incriminating statements. For example, the adjuster might ask how long the stoplight was yellow when the motorist entered the intersection, and whether they saw it turn to red. When the motorist says they did not see the signal turn to red, the adjuster will try to frame that response as an indication they were simply not paying attention.

Please note by reading the information above and herein, no attorney-client relationship has been created. Moreover, the information provided herein is not to be relied upon as legal advice for specific legal needs. For information about specific legal needs, contact The Law Offices Morton J. Grabel in Temecula at (951) 695-7700. Grabel is, originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, attended an American Bar Association law school, has an master’s of business administration, a real estate broker’s license, a California nursing home administrator’s license and is a member in good standing of various local chambers of commerce.

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