The Sound of Silence: why it’s best with adjusters
I often meet with potential clients who advise that they have an upcoming appointment with an insurance adjuster to provide a statement. When I express my concern with the idea of them meeting with the adjuster, the usual reply is “what’s the big deal, I have nothing to hide”.
In this brief article, I am going to try to explain “what’s the big deal”.
For one thing, the insurance adjuster holds the pen (which really is mightier than the sword in these cases) and will summarize and hand-write out what you tell them in their own words. They will then ask you to initial and sign the statement without the claimant understanding the effect of all the words used.
I have had past cases where this was a real problem. For example, some time ago, I represented a very young lady with a G1 license who was living with her boyfriend at the time of the accident. She had taken the boyfriend’s mother’s car to work one day and had been involved in a very unfortunate accident where she ended up losing her leg.
An adjuster came out to take a statement from her before our involvement and reportedly asked her if she had asked the vehicle owner if she could use the car on the morning of the accident and the claimant had said “no”. The adjuster wrote “didn’t ask vehicle owner for permission to use vehicle” on the statement and then continued to ask questions about the injuries and accident. The adjuster then had the client initial and sign the 4 page statement that the adjuster had hand-written out.
The insurance company’s lawyers took a very tough stance on her benefit entitlement because they said that she did not have the owner’s consent to use the vehicle. The client said that of course the owner had agreed to let her use the vehicle in the past and had always been fine with her using the vehicle and although she hadn’t asked that morning, she had asked before and certainly thought that she had consent.
In that case, like in many cases, the adjuster did not provide a copy of the statement when they met and said that they would send one later (but often never send one in my experience).
By the time that we became involved, the young lady’s relationship with her boyfriend had ended and the boyfriend’s mother had been spoken to by the insurance adjuster about the insurance (and rate) issues and whether she had really allowed someone with a G1 license to use her car on their own…..
The other issue is the importance of being specific in a tort lawsuit action. These documents that are signed with adjusters are typically produced as part of a tort action and can sometimes be interpreted by lawyers in different ways. For example, they may ask about why you failed to mention some of your injuries to the adjuster in the statement and may say that you really weren’t suffering those injuries at that time (many claimants just focus on the worst, or most painful, problems when speaking with an adjuster). Sometimes descriptions of the accident aren’t described with specifics and they can also come back to haunt you later on.
The adjusters themselves may well have no ill intent whatsoever. However, they are busy, doing many of these statements at a time and sometimes speak (and write) in general ways like the rest of us.
The moral of the story is you can be an honest person who just isn’t experienced in the tricks and traps that come up along the way in these cases. It is a good idea to have some advice from a lawyer before giving a statement to an insurance company adjuster in car accident injury cases, disability denial cases, or other personal injury matters.
Steven Polak is a personal injury lawyer in Whitby and Toronto Ontario and disability denial lawyer handling car accident injury, insurance benefit denial and other personal injury claims and lawsuits.