First the vehicle hit you on your bicycle. Now the vehicle's insurance company also wants to take advantage of you. Don't let them "turn on the tape".
You were riding your bicycle when you were hit by a car. Now, the car insurance’s representative tells you how sorry she is about your crash, and how much she wants to help. She tells you she “needs” to take a audiotaped statement from you about what happened. She tells you this is her insurance company’s “policy”. She tells you that in order for her insurance company to consider paying your claims, this is what “HAS” to happen. Don't Believe it!
Don't Allow the Adjuster to Record Your Statement
As the victim of a bicycle crash caused by a motorists, you have no legal obligation to give a recorded statement to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Most of my cycling clients start by believing that the insurance company cares about “making it right” and about the cyclist’s well-being. Oftentimes, the cycling victim will then allow the insurance company representative to tape record a question/answer session – the insurance adjuster asks questions “from A to Z” about the cyclist’s background, history of prior crashes, history of prior injuries, prior health or medical condition, prior hospitalizations or surgeries, history of employment, education, criminal history.
The insurance adjuster may likely ask questions of the cyclist that are nearly impossible to answer accurately - for example:
- “At the time of the collision, how fast were you riding?” (Do you really know the exact speed? Were you looking at your Garmin at the exact moment of impact??)
- “How far did you travel from the point you first saw the car until when there was a collision?” (Did you measure it?)
- “How much time elapsed from when you first saw the SUV until when the crash happened?” (Did you have a stopwatch?)
- “How fast was the other vehicle going?”
With these questions, the adjuster will often make the cyclist feel as those she/he MUST provide an answer, even though the cyclists can only answer by guessing. This is unfair. Later – the statement is read as if the cyclist was not guessing, but was certain of the answers. This is deceptive. Moreover, there is a reason for the questions. The adjuster is not trying to “make it right” with the cyclist.
The insurance adjuster is trying to gain ammunition to defend any claim brought by the cyclist. The adjuster to trying to defeat the claim, if possible.
The Insurance adjuster may ask for the victim’s social security number. THIS IS NOT REQUIRED INFORMATION. The cyclist should not disclose it.
What are some of the likely motivations of the insurance company for the at fault vehicle?
- To save money and make a profit. Most U.S. insurance companies are publicly traded companies. They sell shares of stock to the public. The duty of the insurance companies’ board of directors, officers, and employees is to attempt to earn a profit for their shareholders.
- To provide the best possible defense for the negligent driver or owner of the vehicle. Insurance companies also have an obligation to the persons they insure to provide a defense to the claims made by the injured cyclists.
Why would the insurance representative want to RECORD the statement?
Because the recording can be played and used against the bicycle rider in Court. It can be used against the cyclist with legal claims. The statement is likely evidence against the cyclist. It is called an “admission”.
Why would the insurance representative urge the bicyclist for a recorded statement right away after the accident?
The insurance company wants to interview the cyclist BEFORE SHE/HE HAS A LAWYER. The insurance company realizes that once the victim has hired a lawyer, there will be no recorded statement.
The lawyer will advise the cyclist that she/he does not have to give the statement. It is not required by any law. There is virtually no benefit to giving the insurance company such a statement.
There are other ways to prove a truthful claim. The lawyer can provide information to the insurance company on the cycling victim’s behalf. What the lawyer says is not an “admission”. In the rare instance where a statement should be given for strategic reasons, the attorney will prepare and counsel the cycling client about how to answer the questions honestly and effectively.
If you have questions about bicycle accidents and insurance company procedures please contact Christopher Burns directly at (904) 632-2424 or via email.
Christopher G. Burns is an attorney who has specialized in defending the rights of injured cyclists for 30 years. He is the Chairperson for the Jacksonville (Fla.) Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Consultations are free of charge.