Following a motorcycle accident, your life can be hectic. You will need to deal with law enforcement at the scene of the accident, seek medical attention for any injuries you sustained and may have to miss work while you recover physically. As you watch the bills piling up, an insurance adjuster calls you to discuss your accident. Whether the insurance company calling is your own PIP coverage1 or the other driver’s insurer, you should always be careful what you say. Adjusters have specific ways of asking questions and eliciting certain answers to try to avoid liability whenever possible. In fact, it is best to have an experienced motorcycle accident attorney communicate with your insurance company on your behalf from the beginning.
Insurance Companies and Fault
Fault in most accidents can be pretty obvious, especially to the drivers who are at fault. However, insurance companies want to minimize their covered driver’s fault as much as possible. One common tool they use is comparative negligence, also known under Florida law as comparative fault.2
Comparative negligence allows the insurance company to discount the liability of the person who caused the accident because of factors contributed to the accident by the victim. For example, an adjuster may say that because you were going over the speed limit, the damages were 10% higher than they otherwise would have been, or if you were not changing the radio station at the time of the accident, you may have been able to avoid it all together. Their questions may seem very unassuming, but your answers can be exploited and taken out of context to allege comparative fault. In some cases, damages from a motorcycle accident can be several hundred thousand dollars. This means that even a 10% assignment of fault is over $10,000.00.
Consequently, when confronted by an insurance company, it is important to be very careful with what you say and how you answer their questions. You should never lie, of course, but you should always understand the different ways in which your words can be interpreted. Accordingly, you should always consult with an attorney prior to offering any information to an insurance company. Here are some tips to remember:
You are under no obligation to answer any questions from opposing insurance adjusters without a subpoena. Never feel pressed into providing an answer in that instance.
You have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance agent; however, that duty is not breached by consulting an attorney prior to answering. If your own insurance is on the hook for an accident caused by you or by an uninsured motorist and you feel uncomfortable with their questioning, you should never feel pressured to answer immediately.
Understand the difference between notice and discussion. Putting insurance agents on notice of your name and the date and time of the accident should happen as soon as possible after the collision, but you can always call back with more details after discussions with your attorney.
Always assume that you are being recorded. Even if you are not being told that you are being recorded, many states require that only one party be aware of the recording. As such, choose your words wisely as they will be memorialized.
Never produce a written statement without an attorney.
Never provide medical releases without an attorney. Insurance adjusters will often look for preexisting conditions and otherwise invade your privacy if given free range on your medical records. Some records are relevant and others simply are not. An attorney can help you make that distinction.
NEVER SIGN A RELEASE WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY. If an insurance company offers you money, you never want to accept it without first reviewing the offer with an attorney. If you accept an offer that is too low, you will not be able to later request any more funds. An attorney can help you make the determination whether to accept and can negotiate for a higher amount if needed.
Call a Clearwater Motorcycle Accident Attorney for a Free Consultation
The experienced motorcycle injury attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help you communicate with insurance companies, review any settlement offers, and help you determine the best methods of financial recovery after your accident. Please call today for help at 727-451-6900.