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Should I Give a Statements to an Insurance Company and What Happens to it Later?

Most victims of motor vehicle collisions are contacted by their insurance company, or the insurance company of the other driver for a statement.  Most folks feel obligated to give the statement:  they are telling the truth, right?  It’s often over the phone and may not “feel” like a statement, but simply answering some questions.  Be forewarned, however, these seemingly innocuous statements can come back to haunt you later on.  Especially if your case goes into suit and an insurance defense trial attorney has your statement…and you don’t.

Rules for Victims of Motor Vehicle Collisions

First, you do not have to give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company.  They are looking for ways to avoid responsibility.  They will absolutely use what you say against you.

Your own insurance company is a different story.  You may be obligated under your policy to give a statement.  You are obligated to give a statement if you want Personal Injury Protection coverage.  Most of the time, however, the questions for those statements are not too extensive; while we would recommend having your attorney at such a statement, clients often give these statements and do not lose significant rights.

What about bad faith statements?  When the insurance company has you pegged for bad faith, or fraud, their insurance company’s special investigation unit will ask for a statement under oath.  If you are the target, you are not likely to be offered a settlement no matter what the circumstances are.  We would highly recommend an attorney.

What Happens to Statements Given With No Attorney Present?

The law says that you are entitled to a copy of your statement prior to testifying about your motor vehicle, or any personal injury case.  However, the law, Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 233, Section 23A, is not enforced, as rigorously as experienced personal attorneys would like.  In fact there are certain loopholes in the law.  And the 1992 appellate decision on the matter, Mazzoleni v. Cotton, 33 Mass. App. Ct 147, give no bite to the law.  You need an experienced attorney to make the request and follow up rigorously.

The law actually says that the party only has to give you your prior statement in the event they intend to use it against you….and, only if you make a written request.  While insurance defense trial attorneys would generally love to use your prior statement against you – in the event there is a nominal change in your testimony, they will closely follow the law.  Further, they may often not do a diligent search at the insurance company requesting such a statement.  Or it may be another insurance company that took the statement that subsequently gets subpoenaed to give up the statement.

What Should You Do Before You Give a Statement to An Insurance Company?

Get an experienced injury attorney before you give a statement!  Personal injury attorneys usually charge a contingent fee, or a percentage of the recovery.  They don’t charge extra to participate in a statement.  Your case becomes more valuable to you, and the attorney, if they participate.  An experienced attorney will help you prepare for your statement, will make a copy him or herself, and will demand a copy from the insurance company.