When handling an automobile accident claim, I’m often asked the questions: “The other guy’s insurance company called me. Should I talk to them? What should I say?”
That’s when Martha the super-cautious individual and Martha the experienced, common-sense claim professional are at odds. I don’t necessarily think it is a good idea for someone inexperienced in dealing with an accident claim to simply bare their souls to another insurance company. At the same time, I know the other company needs certain information to complete their investigation, and failure to cooperate in the investigation could mean delays and expense to everyone concerned.
So what do I tell my customer? First, I remind them they do not have the same obligation to cooperate with the other company that they have to cooperate with us, their own carrier. But I also remind them it is reasonable for the other company to ask for specific information about the accident and about those involved. Most claims people are not out to trick or trap anyone. They are just trying to complete an investigation.
If you are contacted by an insurance company other than your own after an accident, it might be a good idea to set some parameters for a recorded interview. For instance, agree to only discuss how an accident occurred but not any details about injuries. And there’s no need to be concerned about appearing uninformed or “dumb” in a conversation with the other company. If you do not understand a question, simply say “I don’t understand” or “I’m not sure what you mean.” For example, if the interviewer asks what direction you were traveling and you aren’t sure if you were going north or east, don’t guess! Instead, you could explain where you were coming from and traveling to: “I’m not sure, but I was coming from _____and going toward_____.”
Other reasonable questions you may be asked include the date, time, and place of the accident, and a general description of the area, lighting, and weather at the time of the accident. Background information to confirm your identity (name, address, date of birth, and telephone number) are typical questions, as are questions about the ownership of any vehicles involved.
Most interviewers will ask you to describe what happened and will definitely let you ramble! It’s best to just stick to the facts and resist any temptation to elaborate. Saying you are sure the accident happened at 7:55 because you had to be at work by 8:00 may lead someone to conclude you were in a hurry. Also, be careful about denying injuries unless you are absolutely sure you are not injured.
Finally, I always tell my customers to trust their instincts. If you are not comfortable with the conversation, end the call as pleasantly as possible. Then call your insurance company. Sometimes they can provide the other company a copy of the statement in your file or explain the process more completely. Depending on the situation, you may be able to use your own coverage and let us deal with the other company. Remember the other company is just doing their job and needs your help, but your insurance company is there to help you!
Have you ever had an accident claim? What was your experience like when dealing with the other insurance company?