Do not give a statement to a claims adjuster until after you have spoken to a lawyer after you have been injured.
“But I’m telling the truth!” you say.
Not so fast!
Why Not Give a Statement?
The claims adjuster or defendant will be in possession of evidence that you do not have. They will be able to reference and analyze the situation more than you could. The claims adjuster is a professional who asks questions for a living. They may attempt to bring out any thing that might be used against you. They will compare your statement to evidence and other statements that you make about the accident or event.
Your memory may be flawed. While many of us think that our brains store memories of things that have happened to us in the same way that an iPhone saves a video, this is not the case. Every time that you remember an event, your brain re-creates the image from scratch. Studies can show that these “re-creations” can vary from time to time and can differ greatly from what actually happened. If you have suffered a head injury or other traumatic event, it could further affect your ability to remember. This doesn’t mean that you should never rely on your memory- it just means that you should be careful.
Some people think out loud. They spend much of the time trying to piece together what happened while talking to someone else. It is perfectly fine to do this in a conversation with friends, but not in a statement. If you do this in a statement, it can seem (especially if someone is looking at a paper transcript of the statement and not listening to a recording) that you don’t know what you are talking about.
In summary, if you give your statement without having spoken with a lawyer first, you may give a statement that does not reflect what really happened.
What Should You Do Instead?
Attempt to meet with a lawyer first. I am not suggesting that you refuse to give a statement. I am telling you to attempt to speak to a lawyer, first. When filing a claim with your own insurance company, you may have to give a statement. There are other times when you don’t have to give a statement but it might help bring your claim to an early resolution. You want to speak with a lawyer first so that you give the most accurate statement possible.
You want to gather any evidence that you can, as soon as possible, since evidence can be destroyed or lost quickly. For instance, have a relative or friend get to the store as quickly as possible and take pictures of the area involved, any substance involved, any product involved, and any product display involved, if you are injured in a store. You will also want to get a copy of any guest incident report and the names of any witnesses.
If you are injured in an automobile accident, you would want to get a copy of the accident report, photographs of the cars, the names of all drivers, passengers, and witnesses and the location of any potential surveillance cameras. The black boxes of any cars involved in the accident can also be helpful. This evidence will help you recall the events as accurately as possible if you decide to give a statement.
If you do contact an attorney promptly, the attorney can help you gather and preserve evidence. Gathering and preserving this evidence can be the difference between a successful result in your case or an unsuccessful one.
When you do meet with an attorney, ask them whether you should give a statement and if so, what you should do to prepare.
Some of the recommendations that they may suggest include:
(1) reviewing all of the evidence before you give your statement, (2) closing your eyes and attempted to reconstruct the incident in your mind before giving the statement, (3) writing out everything that happened on a piece of paper or electronic document and working on it to make it as accurate as possible, (4) speaking only about what you know (don’t guess), and (5) answering only the questions asked of you.
You can “ace” your statement, if you’re prepared. Call us if you have been injured and asked to give a statement. We will be happy to give you a free consultation and talk about it with you.