After you have been hurt in a car accident, it is your right to seek damages from the other driver or their insurance company. If you’ve never had to submit a claim or file a lawsuit, you might be wondering how much of the process your attorney can handle and if you are expected to interact with the opposing side yourself. Working with qualified car accident attorneys in Houston, Texas can help answer all your questions about the legal process.
Are You Obligated to Talk to the Other Driver’s Legal Team?
Before you make any statements regarding your claim, you should understand that anything you say can be used as evidence against you. If the other driver’s legal team attempts to contact you directly, chances are they will try to elicit statements implying that you played a role in the accident. Fortunately, you are under no legal obligation to provide information to them or answer any of their questions without consulting your own lawyer first.
Both the plaintiff and the defendant can assume that all questions will go through their attorneys except when there is a deposition ( a period of questioning under oath.) In fact, rather than receiving questions from the other driver’s legal team, you are more likely to get a call from his or her insurance company. In either situation, you have the right to decline the call.
The Risks of Disclosing Too Much Information About Your Claim
The biggest reason to be careful about disclosing information is the fact that you might accidentally reveal evidence against yourself or make a statement that could be misconstrued as a confession. Even simply apologizing to the other driver at the scene of the accident could be interpreted as an admission of guilt. When your payout is calculated, the amount of money you receive will be reduced by the percentage of blame you share in the accident.
Your Lawyer Can Handle Most of the Communications
There are very few situations in which you would need to give information about the accident to anyone other than your lawyer. Even if law enforcement agents contact you, you have the right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment. Always consult with your own personal injury attorney before giving statements to anyone who is investigating the accident, including the other driver.
Negotiating Settlement Offers
Most car accident claims are resolved outside of court through a settlement offer. A settlement offer is an amount of money that the other driver’s insurance company agrees to pay you in order to avoid going to trial. Settlement offers are final, and cannot be increased or revised once they are accepted.
If the other driver’s insurance company makes you an offer, they will try to pay the lowest amount possible in order to cut their costs. Therefore, you might receive a settlement offer that is far below the amount a jury would likely award if your claim went to trial. However, skilled negotiation techniques can persuade the insurance company to increase its offer. Your lawyer’s job is to build strong evidence and negotiate on your behalf.
Responding to the Other Side’s Investigation
As part of any legal investigation, you may be asked to answer written questions, submit to a medical exam, or allow the other side to review documentation and physical evidence pertaining to the claim. In the case of a car accident, both sides will want to check for damage to the vehicles. All requests for evidence should go through your lawyer, who can advise you on which items you are required to submit and how to respond to the other side’s questions.
When Will You Need to Handle Communications Yourself?
The only party you might need to speak to directly is your own insurance company. In most car accidents, the at-fault driver’s insurance pays for the settlement. However, if the other driver did not have insurance at the time of the accident, you may need to file a claim with your own insurance company. In that case, it is in your insurance company’s interests to gather evidence that will allow them to minimize the amount of money they owe you.
Most insurance companies require their policyholders to consent to a recorded statement after an accident occurs. You can usually find terms pertaining to recorded statements in the fine print of your policy. If you signed off on a clause concerning recorded statements, refusing to cooperate with the investigation could constitute a breach of contract. Speaking with your attorney prior to giving the interview is an excellent way to prepare statements that will not reduce your chances of collecting compensation.
What Types of Questions Does the Other Side Want to Ask?
If the other driver’s legal team or insurance company wants to interview you, their aim is to find evidence that the accident was partly your fault or that your injuries were the result of pre-existing conditions. Claimants who engage with the other side frequently receive questions such as:
- Were you feeling fatigued at the time of the accident?
- Were you wearing your prescription glasses?
- Do you have any pre-existing medical conditions?
- Did you use your turn signal correctly?
How to Decline Questions From the Other Driver’s Legal Team
Many people feel rude or nervous when they refuse an interview with the other driver’s legal team or insurance company. While it can be awkward to decline their questions, you have every right to say that you are not comfortable speaking without your lawyer present. You can even provide your lawyer’s contact information and ask that they send requests to the law office rather than contacting you directly.
Phrasing Your Refusal
If you are asked to give a recorded statement, the best response is to say, “No, I decline to give permission for you to record this call. Please give me your name and phone number so that I can call you back after I speak with my attorney.” However you phrase your refusal, be sure to keep your words clear and direct.
What If the Lawyer or Claims Adjuster Says Giving the Interview Is in Your Best Interest?
Sometimes, representatives of the other driver’s legal team or insurance company act as though they are working to sort out the accident details quickly so that everyone can put the accident to rest. The truth is that your attorney is the only party that has any interest in seeing you receive adequate compensation in a timely manner.
You should be skeptical if the attorney or claims adjuster who contacted you says that giving the interview will help you get your settlement faster. Facilitating their investigation will not necessarily speed up your claim, and you might end up walking away with a smaller payout.
How to Find the Best Car Accident Attorneys in Houston, TX
After you have been in a car accident, sorting out what information you need to provide and who you need to provide it to gets complicated. It is important to fulfill your legal requirements without weakening your claim by giving the defense grounds for their counterarguments. Your attorney can handle communications on your behalf so that you can avoid incriminating yourself with statements that could be misconstrued. To get in touch with our car accident attorneys in Houston, TX, contact Houston Injury Lawyers PLLC.