You’re involved in an accident. From the moment you step out of your vehicle until the jury foreperson delivers your verdict, these words ring true. Insurance companies will do everything in their power to find ways to minimize the value of your claim, including using completely innocuous statements made at the scene of a crash while you are still in shock as a means of belittling your injuries. Imagine for a minute that you are involved in a car accident and you exit your vehicle to assess the situation. Naturally, the first thing the other party is likely to ask you is, “are you ok?” The police arrive on scene. As the officer approaches you, he asks if you are hurt, and whether you want an ambulance. Odds are, you decline. Fast forward a short period of time and you are visiting with your health care provider. He or she asks you to rate your pain on a scale of 0-10, zero being no pain, 10 being the worst pain you have ever experienced in your life. You are taken off guard, and perhaps a bit puzzled at the inquiry as you have never been confronted with that kind of a scale before. Perhaps you have limited life experience with traumatically induced pain and/or injury and aren’t really sure how to accurately respond. You don’t want to sound weak, but you still need to acknowledge the fact you are hurting so you just throw a number out there. Call it 5. In your mind, you have been completely open and honest; forthcoming in every possible way with the only intention of getting better as quick as possible. The insurance company sees it another way.
An insurance company takes your statement to their client that you were “ok” at the scene as an indication that you aren’t really hurt. You aren’t a doctor, you haven’t performed any kind of examination of yourself but they will inevitably tell the jury you were fine at the scene and then all of the sudden a lawyer is involved and you’re hurt. That’s strike one. The insurance company then takes your statement to the police officer that you don’t need an ambulance. Of course, what you meant at the time is you didn’t feel like your life was in danger, so you didn’t need one. The insurance company turns around and has their bought-and-paid-for attorneys/doctors tell the jury that if you were really hurt, you would have told the officer that you were injured. Strike two. Then we have your statements to the doctor. Sure you were confused and trying to minimize the injury to avoid the appearance of weakness, but in the eyes of the insurance company, 5/10 is no different than bumping your knee against your desk. Their attorneys tell the jury you weren’t really in that much pain, and their doctors try to convince the jurors that all you should have had were a few follow up appointments and you would have been good as new. There’s strike three.
In injury litigation, it is imperative that any and all statements you make to anyone in reference to your accident are carefully chosen, deliberate, and truthful. As an injured party seeking compensation, you must constantly be mindful of how an insurance company is going to spin whatever you say to a jury. You have to assume that whatever you say is going to be used against you at every opportunity imaginable. Be careful, choose your words wisely, be concise yet forthcoming. Above all else do not ever, under any circumstances, put anything about your accident online; the value of your claim depends on it.