What is a Recorded Statement?
Following an accident, and even before a claim is filed, an injured person is likely to be contacted by an insurance company adjuster. The adjuster may work for your insurance company, or may work for the liable party’s insurance company. The purpose of this communication is to allow the insurance company to get an early start in evaluating the extent and severity of your potential claim. After all, the greater your loss or injury, the more liability the insurance company is potentially subject to. Because the insurance company wants to minimize the extent of their liability (thus retaining greater profit margins for their shareholders) they will typically begin investigating potential claims as early as possible. One technique insurance companies’ use during their investigations is to get the claimant (or potential claimant) to make a statement that will go on the record. A recorded statement may be written, or it may be an oral statement that is recorded by the adjuster. A recorded statement can be very informal, and indeed it may even be made over the phone.
Why do insurance companies request recorded statements?
The purpose of a recorded statement, at least in theory anyway, is to allow the insurance company to hear your version of the events that caused your injury or loss. This in turn is meant to facilitate the insurance company’s investigation of your claim, which in turn is meant to provide the insured with a quicker resolution and faster payout. Unfortunately, insurance companies are often more interested in getting the insured to contradict themselves to then provide the insurer with grounds to deny your claim or minimize their liability. For this reason, many attorneys strongly counsel their clients against giving recorded statements, at least when it is not a contractual requirement per the terms of your policy.
Alternatively, some attorneys counsel their clients to give only written statements. Providing a written statement serves the same purpose as the orally recorded statement in that it allows the claimant to tell its version of the events. However, the written statement puts less pressure on the claimant because you have the opportunity to carefully draft your statement without any interruption by the adjuster, and with a lesser chance of relating an inconsistency. This is important considering that adjusters only represent the interests of the insurance company, and thus are looking for reasons to deny your claim. Adjusters are notorious for twisting the insured’s words. Common techniques involve downplaying the claimant’s injuries by asking leading questions expecting the claimant to commit to a less favorable description of the events, or asking questions that may help minimize the extent of the insurer’s liability. Remember, however slight it may be, the insurance company will exploit any inconsistencies they find in your statement to escape liability.
Do you have to submit to a recorded statement?
As is always the case in contract law, whether you are required to provide a recorded statement will depend on the specific rights and duties imposed by the terms of your insurance policy. While some insurance contracts do not impose a duty on the insured to provide a recorded statement, it is becoming increasingly common practice for insurance companies to include provisions of this nature in their policies. Thus, it is necessary to review your specific policy to determine your duties during the claims process. On the other hand, the failure to provide a recorded statement often provides the insurance company with a basis to delay your claim for as long as possible. Although they may disguise their intentions by claiming that the investigation will take longer without a recorded statement, it is more likely that they want to delay your claim for as long as possible in the hopes that you will accept a lesser settlement than you are entitled to. Despite the fact that all insurance companies are subject to strict good faith requirements in the settlement of claims, bad faith lawsuits are often difficult to prove, especially when the insurer can provide a reasonable explanation for the delay. If the request for the recorded statement is being made by an insurance company that is not your insurance company or by some other third party, then you are under no obligation to provide the recorded statement.
How do you prepare for a recorded statement?
It should go without saying, when dealing with an insurance company during the claims process you should be thoroughly prepared. Whether you are providing a written statement or an orally recorded statement, anything you say may form the basis of an approval or a denial of your claim. Before you provide a recorded statement, you should obtain all claims-related documents and review them carefully because you can be certain that your insurer will be combing through those documents looking for inconsistencies. Stick to the facts, and only the facts. You should organize yourself in chronological order and relate only those facts that are relevant to your claim. Tell a story that emphasizes the other party’s liability, as well as your injuries. Do not lie, but do not downplay your injuries. If you are uncertain of something, simply state that you do not have enough information or that you do not recall enough to answer accurately at this time. Do not let the insurance company lead the story in a way that may harm your chances of recovery. Do not tell them more than you need to. Simply state what happened, what caused your injury or loss, whether there were witnesses or corroborating evidence, and any damages or injuries you sustained.
Are you entitled to a copy of your recorded statement?
In Florida, you have an absolute right to receive a copy of any recorded statements you have made. The adjuster’s code of ethics, which applies to all adjusters, specifically requires that any adjuster that receives a recorded statement furnish that statement to the maker of the statement upon request. Furthermore, a Florida Statute imposes an even greater duty to furnish recorded statements. The relevant statute applies to “any person,” not just adjusters, and provides that a person taking such statement must provide such statement to the maker of the statement at the time the statement is made. Furthermore, that statute requires any person in possession of such statement to turn it over upon request. The sanctions for violating this duty include inadmissibility in court, and in the case of an adjuster may include administrative action including loss of license.
You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].
FL. Admin. Code – Rule: 69B-220.201
Fla. Stat. §92.33