When I first started out as a young Dallas personal injury lawyer back in 1994, recorded statements were routine. Most attorneys, including myself, did not even question them. When we would get a new car accident case, the other driver’s insurance company would request a recorded statement of my client. The adjuster would say that “it is necessary for them to conduct their investigation….” (Of course, they never allowed me to take a statement of their driver). We would then schedule a time for a conference call where the adjuster would ask my client questions while the whole interview is being recorded.
But then I started to see a pattern forming. It didn’t take me long to realize just how damaging a recorded statement can be . So many times, my client would innocently say something that would come back to haunt them. Once your story is on the record, a smart adjuster can manipulate the course of their investigation in order to undermine your version of the events.
Finally, I said enough is enough. Within a year or two, I became part of the initial movement of personal injury attorneys in the Dallas / Fort Worth area to refuse recorded statements. Trust me when I say that this was not popular with the insurance companies. Now, most attorneys have followed suit and many adjusters do not even ask for one any more (at least not from me). If they ask, I just tell them to look at the pictures, police report and talk to the witnesses themselves. If there is no police report or witnesses, sometimes I will allow an informal conference call, but will insist that the call not be recorded.
Lately, I have been seeing many questions posted on the internet by people asking whether they should give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company* after an accident. It seems like many people are either putting off contacting an attorney or trying to handle their own case. Likewise, insurance companies are taking advantage of people who don’t have lawyers. They are contacting the drivers very early on (sometimes within hours of the accident) hoping they can get a recorded statement before the injured person contacts a lawyer.
The moral of the story is simply this. Every injury case is like a mine-field full of dangers at every turn. Recorded statements are just one of the many traps that only an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you avoid. So, take my advice: If you are injured in an accident, contact an attorney who will give you a free consultation. You have nothing to lose. You can then learn all your options and make an informed decision about how to proceed.
*Keep in mind that this article only applies to car accident cases where you are making a claim against the other driver’s insurance company. The rules are different when you are making a claim on your own insurance policy. In that case, your policy, most likely has a provision that requires you to submit to a recorded statement. But when you are dealing with the other driver’s insurance company, you are not bound by the terms of that policy. Either way, you should consult with a lawyer before giving any statement to any insurance company, whether it’s recorded or not.