Do I Have to Let The Insurance Company Take my Statement After A Maryland Car Accident?
An insurance company is always going to make an effort to get what an injured person said memorialized in some fashion. Written statements and recorded oral statements are preferred. As Attorney Eric T. Kirk will tell you.
Whether or not the insurance company can force you to give a statement depends on the status of the claim.
The insurance company’s goal in these situations is to get the injured person to commit to a given set of facts, and injuries, in the immediate aftermath of an accident. Then, later, if injures worsen, or further review indicates the preliminary factual assessment was wrong in some way, the insurance company lawyer can say the Plaintiff is “lying” or changing their story.
If a lawsuit has been filed, the other party has an absolute right to take your statement through a discovery device called a deposition.
This is mandatory event. Your attendance can be compelled by a subpoena. If you do not attend your deposition, the court can sanction you – ultimately even dismissing your case.
The rules are different if a lawsuit has not been filed. In the aftermath of a car accident which results in personal injury, it is fairly routine for an insurance company to want to take a statement of some type from the participants. We are talking here about the other, or at-fault, party’s insurance company wanting you to give your version of events in a recorded format.
After and accident, but before a lawsuit, an insurance company will want you to give a recorded statement. These statements are voluntary.
Typically, these are recorded, informally, by the adjuster, of an investigator and later transcribed. Typically, you are not placed under oath, but, a statement under oath may be requested. I am frequently asked if it is “ok” to give a statement. I would have to say that the general answer is “yes”. As a routine matter, I have no objection to a client giving an insurance company their version of how the accident happened.
I would go so far as to say that if the insurance company wanted a statement on that issue only, I would never have any objection. There is no harm, and, it may speed up, or influence, a liability determination, which of course benefits anyone who is waiting to have their car fixed, for example. However, some insurance companies have used the statement process to conduct informal, free, discovery on a case. I’ve seen investigators ask if my client has ever been involved in a prior accident, or make detailed inquiry of the nature and extent of an injury. I’ve heard questions regarding criminal convictions of my clients. In my estimation, in the context of a statement given for purposes of a liability determination, i.e. did the accident happen, how did it happen, and who is at fault, these questions are absolutely improper, and a refusal to answer them is justified. Most people, frankly, have not been convicted of crimes, and do not have extensive accident histories. The answers would actually be, in the typical circumstance, fairly innocuous. Nevertheless, such inquiries are not related to the facts of an accident, and for that reason alone are improper. If the insurance company wants to contend that you have a pre-existing condition, or that you might have been injured in a prior accident, they can obtain that information through formal discovery after a lawsuit has been filed. You don’t have to voluntarily provide it to them.
For clarity, there are typically two involved insurance companies, your insurance company and the other party’s insurer. The obligation to give a statement also depends on which insurance company we are talking about. If your insurance company wants to talk to you about what happened, you have an obligation, under the terms of the policy, and otherwise, to cooperate with them. If you fail to do so, they may decline coverage, or benefits to you, due to the loss.