What You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You By Insurance Companies
Recovering from an auto wreck can be an exhausting experience. Getting your car repaired correctly after the fact should not be difficult, and many reputable auto body shops do it right the first time. Did you stop to think, however, that volunteering too much information can put you needlessly under water? While we cannot offer legal advice, consider this scenario:
Driver Jane is a middle-aged woman driving home from work. She sees heavy traffic ahead, some of which has stopped in the road. Her lane of travel slowly comes to a stop, so she comes to a stop at what she considers to be a safe distance from the vehicle in front of her. Without warning, several seconds later she feels her head jerking backward and then forward again as her vehicle is pushed into the vehicle in front of her.
Jane did absolutely nothing wrong in this scenario. The driver behind her, a seventeen year old on a limited driving privilege, was not paying attention and collided with the back of Jane's car at 45mph. Jane was checked out at a local hospital and released with a clean bill of health. The car, however, was a different story.
Jane towed her vehicle to a prominent body shop expecting good repairs. While there, she told the shop owner to "make it look really good, because the last time I took my car somewhere I had to go back and get some things adjusted." She was only doing what any good consumer would do, and that's looking out for herself.
The insurance company of the at-fault driver contacted Jane a short while later with some follow up questions about the crash. During the course of small talk, Jane reviewed the crash with the adjuster. She told him that she was coming from an eye exam. Her eyes, after all, weren't what they used to be! She told them about her son talking to her earlier that day about some financial problems and that she wanted to get the repairs done as soon as possible so that she can go on not being so stressed. The adjuster sympathized with her, giving her his contact information and informing her that he would be in touch shortly.
The next day, a call from the insurance adjuster sent Jane over the edge. The insurance company was not going to pay for her damages. Why? It seems that Jane's ramblings got the best of her. How?
Do you remember the comment Jane made to the shop owner? During the course of their inspection, some of the damage to the vehicle seemed a little unusual. The statement she made to the owner made him think that Jane's vehicle had been wrecked prior to this incident. It had, in fact, never been wrecked and was a new model. It was so new that the manner in which the car's crumple zones collapsed in a wreck were different from what the show owner had ever repaired. But in his experience, it could have been from another nasty wreck. Jane's statement, however innocent, solidified his false theory.
But what about the adjuster? The wreck report noted that the at-fault driver was charged with a violation in the wreck. But the insurance companies don't always stop there. The adjuster's job is not only to settle them claim, but to do it as beneficially to the company as possible. Jane's innocent statements about being stressed and having come from an eye exam due to aging eyes gave the insurance company an out. The adjuster decided that Jane's actions in the crash were contributory to the cause of the crash. Even though we all know from our little story that Jane had nothing to do with it, her statement put her in the hot seat and planted a seed of doubt.
While most cases don't end this way, it's important to note that they sometimes do. In the end, what did we learn from Jane's case?
An important lesson is not to volunteer unneeded and unrelated information. When dealing with the body shop, stick with this particular crash and not one you had forty years ago in your parent's Plymouth Fury. You were struck a particular way, these particular warnings lights came on, the airbags did or did not deploy, and you want your vehicle repaired using only factory OEM parts. When dealing with the insurance adjuster, simple yes or no answers can suffice. You may be asked to give your version of events.
In this case, stick to the bare facts. Jane should have simply said that she saw stopped traffic, stopped at what she deemed to be a reasonably safe distance from the vehicle in front of her, and then several seconds later felt an impact from behind as another vehicle pushed her into a stopped vehicle. Notice there is no mention about from where she is coming, her medical conditions, her family affairs, etc. It's kept simple and to the point.