Recorded statements are a normal part of the claims process. Claims adjusters usually like to get a recorded statement from all the parties in the loss early in the claims process. That way, the details of the claim are still fresh in everyone’s minds, and can be documented more accurately. Don’t be nervous about being recorded.
If the claims adjuster calls and requests a recorded statement over the telephone, politely tell him that you prefer to meet with him in person. The best scenario for you would be to meet the adjuster at your attorney’s office, and give the recorded statement in the presence of the attorney. Even uncooperative or moody adjusters seem to be on their best behavior in the presence of an attorney.
If the insurance adjuster or examiner only does recorded statements by phone, simply have the adjuster do a three-way conference call with you and your attorney.
On an in-person interview, the adjuster will have his portable tape recorder with which he will record the interview. You should also bring a portable tape recorder and tape the interview for your own protection. You can buy a hand-sized cassette recorder at any electronics store or discount department store…even major drug store chains for less than $40.00. They use standard cassette tapes and batteries. The microcassette recorders work great, too, and cost about the same. Make sure that you have plenty of fresh batteries and a few cassette tapes with you at the interview.
When the adjuster is recording your statement, don’t OFFER any information. Answer the question that he asked, and no more.
Remember that some questions do not deserve an answer.
Have you ever been in an interview, or some social situation, and someone asked you a question that made you uncomfortable? And you ANSWERED the question so they didn’t think you were impolite? Then later you hated yourself for being a doormat?
People feel a need to be nice. Adjusters take advantage of people’s need to be nice. Adjusters know that most people will answer whatever questions seem reasonable, even if the question is not relevant to the claim. Personal questions that do not have relevance to your claim should not be answered. Questions about your income, or asking for your Social Security number, may not be relevant to the claim. Questions about your income, for example, are not appropriate unless you are making a claim for lost wages.
One of the reasons that adjusters ask for your Social Security number is so they can look you up on a database called Insurance Service Office (ISO) Claimsearch. If you want to see what the Claimsearch homepage looks like, go to: https://claimsearch.iso.com/index.asp
Claimsearch is a searchable database that shows if you’ve ever had an insurance claim before. With your Social Security number, adjusters and claims examiners can call up all the data about you…WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION.
If there’s a question that the adjuster asks that you don’t feel comfortable answering, politely reply “I’d rather not answer that question.” Sometimes adjusters ask inappropriate questions. Make sure that the adjuster sticks to the details of the accident or loss. If you’re in an attorney’s office at the time of the recorded statement, he’ll help the adjuster stay on track.
My belief is that you, the policyholder or claimant, should record every telephone conversation and face-to-face conversation that you have with anyone about your claim. The same electronics stores that sell the cassette recorders will stock a “pick-up” microphone that plugs into your cassette recorder and has a suction cup that sticks to your telephone handset. The quality of the sound is usually quite good.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that you should do something illegal or unethical. You need to check your state’s statutes and laws about recording conversations. Some states do not allow it unless both parties give consent. Some states allow it if only one of the parties is aware that the conversation is being recorded.
- Know the law, and know your rights.
Don’t be surprised if some people refuse to have their conversations recorded. That doesn’t mean that you should cave in to their lack of cooperation. You should insist on the recording, or politely refuse to speak with that person. But, it should tell you something about that person if he or she refuses to be recorded.
Be in control of when and where you accept phone calls about your claim. I’ve seen some adjusters that try to keep the insured off balance by making calls at unusual times, like early morning or late night. If you’re not ready to record the call when the phone rings, tell the person that it’s not convenient to speak right then and make an appointment to call him back. Always keep your appointments.
I can imagine that some of you reading this article think that this author is some sort of paranoid kook. Please let me assure you that I am. But I’ve seen countless situations in which an adjuster took a recorded statement, and then wrote a statement summary that wasn’t anything like the information on the tape. I’ve seen police officers fill out an accident report, and describe the accident completely wrongly. I’ve seen court testimony where the adjuster and the insured are questioned about an incident, and their stories are completely different.
Recordings of conversations put all of that to rest.
After you have a problem with a person who lies to you, or about you, it’s too late to record them then.
The old adage is, “better safe than sorry.” Sorry can cost you thousands of dollars.
For more information go to: www.insurance-claim-secrets.com
Copyright 2008 Russell D. Longcore. All Rights Reserved.