Few people enjoy dealing with insurance companies in the aftermath of a car accident in West Virginia, but the process is often the only way to secure a claim settlement. Knowing how to handle each conversation will empower you to provide relevant information and to fight for fair compensation under the terms of the policy. From the time you first make contact with an insurance agent, avoid saying these potentially harmful things:
- “I’m so sorry.” For many, apologizing comes naturally. Resist the urge to apologize or accept blame, because someone might take the phrase as an admission of fault. Even if you feel you were responsible for the incident, you may not remember the accident as clearly as you think. Avoid saying anything that makes you sound liable for the incident. Similar phrases to avoid include “my bad,” “that was all my fault,” and “I made a mistake.” Wait until after an investigation to claim your role in the incident.
- “This is what happened.” Never make your opinion sound like fact. After an accident, your opinion only accounts for your perception (subjective reality), not what actually happened (objective reality). If you feel the need to speculate, always precede the phrase with “In my opinion.”
- “I’m okay.” The moment you claim you’re okay or uninjured, the insurance company can reduce or deny your claim for medical compensation. Unless you’re several weeks out from the accident, you’ve seen a doctor, and you’re not experiencing any residual symptoms, avoid saying anything to make an insurance company think you’re well. Some injuries may not manifest until weeks after the incident. To secure full and fair compensation, an insurance company needs to know the complete situation and your future prognosis.
In addition to avoiding verbal statements, also avoid posting any pictures or statements on social media. An insurance adjustor may look at a public profile and use the information in the claims investigation.
- “Yes, I will give my official statement” or “Yes, you can record this conversation.” If you agree to provide an official statement or go on record, what you say may determine the outcome of your claim. We recommend avoiding verbal statements, because insurance agents may use leading questions to shape your responses. Instead, agree to provide a written statement. Consider speaking to a personal injury lawyer before you agree to provide any official statement – verbal or written.
- “I will take the settlement offer.” In cases involving clear fault, an insurance company may reach out with an initial settlement offer. If you or a loved one suffered a severe injury, such as a spinal cord injury, the sum may appear fair. However, initial offers may not consider long term care needs and the money may not provide as much benefit as you think. Before you accept any settlement offer, discuss your claim with an attorney. Claimants who accept a premature offer may end up needlessly paying out of pocket for rehabilitative services.
- Any lie. If you lie to an insurance company or omit important facts, you may face criminal fraud charges or a claim denial. While you can legally retain certain pieces of information, you cannot lie to expedite the process or receive a greater claim. Do not exaggerate your injuries or lie about what happened at the scene of the accident – especially if you know that you were partially at fault. To play it safe, stick to answering questions of “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where.”
Look at company notification information after an accident. You may have a few days or weeks to notify the insurer of the accident. Take the first few days after an accident to gather your thoughts, seek medical care, and prepare for the claims process.
After a serious accident or injury, we highly recommend talking to a West Virginia accident attorney. In addition to representing plaintiffs in lawsuits, attorneys commonly help accident victims navigate the complex insurance claims process.