Don’t Give a Recorded Statement After a Crash
In the days after a serious crash, you will call the responsible party’s insurer to open an insurance claim. After gathering your basic info, the insurance adjuster will likely ask you to provide a recorded statement about the crash and your injuries. DO NOT AGREE. Instead, politely decline to provide a statement “at this time” and explain that you are still recovering and assessing the events of the crash and your injuries.
When investigating a new claim, insurers gather as much information as possible early on to evaluate their insured’s liability and set their reserves. During this preliminary investigation, insurers want you “on the record” so they can use this as evidence against you later on if your “story” changes. Here’s the thing… your story is going change and develop as you work through the events of the crash and your injuries evolve.
Trauma Affects Memory
Trauma affects the brain’s ability to encode, store, and recall memories. fn1. Victims take time – often weeks or even months – to process the events of a serious crash. During this time, you may recall new details about the incident which can be important to your case. If you already provided a recorded statement, an insurer could claim that your new information is fabricated. If your case proceeds to trial, get ready for the defense to play your recorded statement to the jury when they cross-examine you using your own voice.
Instead, wait to provide a statement until after you have fully processed the events of the crash. In a litigated case, you will likely end up providing a recorded statement in the form of a deposition. A deposition is a question-and-answer session conducted under oath and in the presence of a court reporter who captures every word that is spoken. Your attorney will be next to you throughout your deposition to ensure that you are being treated fairly and to catch any potentially problematic misunderstandings.
Injuries Evolve Over Time
In the days after a crash, your body will be in a state of shock. Often, neck or lower back pain will predominate over other injured body parts. As these spinal issues calm down, victims frequently realize that their other injuries are more serious than expected. Sometimes, it takes a few weeks for the victim to get back to their routine before they realize that something is wrong.
Shoulder injuries often lie dormant until you throw a ball with your kid. Knee injuries are often overlooked until you lace up your shoes and go out for a run. Traumatic brain injuries are particularly tricky because the usual concussion symptoms like headache wane over time, but memory loss and anxiety can quietly persist. fn 2 So, it is a better practice to wait and see how your injuries evolve before locking yourself in.
You are at your weakest in the days after a crash. This is not a good time to lock yourself into a recorded statement. Instead, politely decline an invitation to record your statement and let the adjuster know that you will be happy to provide one once you have processed the crash and ascertained the true nature and extent of your injuries. This strategy gives you time to gather the facts and records so you can effectively consult with an attorney about the crash. Your attorney will then decide whether you are in a position to provide a recorded statement or whether you should wait a little longer for the facts to develop.
fn 1 Nelson, Charles A., and Leslie J. Carver. 1998. The Effects of Stress and Trauma on Brain and Memory: A View from Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Development and Psychopathology 10, no. 4: 793–809. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12997517
fn 2 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Health Care Services; Committee on the Review of the Department of Veterans Affairs Examinations for Traumatic Brain Injury. Evaluation of the Disability Determination Process for Traumatic Brain Injury in Veterans. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2019 Apr 10. 2, Diagnosis and Assessment of Traumatic Brain Injury. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK542595/