Requests for Recorded Statements: One Suggestion on How Attorneys Should Respond

In a comment to my May 22, 2006 post on giving recorded statements to insurance companies, Atlanta personal injury lawyer Ken Shigley makes a great point about how lawyers can knock insurance companies off their moral high ground when an injury victim’s car accident lawyer refuses to give a recorded statement. In the same way that innocent people accused of a crime feel compelled to talk to police because they do not want to look like they have something to hide, personal injury lawyers tend to feel a little uncomfortable when refusing to allow a recorded statement. The refusal makes the lawyer feel like he or she has something to hide, even when there is nothing to hide. Every lawyer (okay, most lawyers) wants to be a straight shooter, willing to lay their cards on the table. But giving a recorded statement is simply against the attorney’s client’s interests, even when the attorney knows that the client was not at fault for the accident and has been seriously injured in the car accident.

Instead of refusing the request, Ken suggests that personal injury lawyers offer that both parties meet to give recorded statements. The insurance adjuster invariably has to refuse the request because it is against company policy to allow for a recorded statement. Ken points out the end result is the same but it knocks the insurance company off its high horse and makes the lawyer “feel good.”
This might be an obvious point to some, but I am asked for a recorded statement several times a week, sometimes (but not usually) with a condescending “what does your client have to hide?” tone, and have never thought to give this response. I literally just used it with a Nationwide adjuster about 10 minutes ago.

By the way, I am glad to see that Ken is a reader of the Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog. I am a regular reader of his outstanding blog.

  • Tony

    I’ve heard that some plaintiffs’ lawyers use this tactic. However, many adjusters are simply trying to get some information to “paper the file” and permit settlement. If the adjuster doesn’t follow their protocol, the case isn’t going to settle. I assume that plaintiffs’ counsel will prep their client for a statement in the same way they prep their clients for a deposition. Therefore, I don’t see the big deal in giving a recorded statement. From the defense perspective, the recorded statement is often not useful. Many adjusters don’t know what to ask in terms of preparing a case for trial. In district court, the statement is all we have, but the real dispute there is usually over damages anyway (and that’s based exclusively on the credibility of the plaintiff and the medical records). In circuit court, defense counsel takes a deposition. But in many ways, Baltimore is a small town — why would a plaintiffs’ lawyer want to get the reputation of being a “pill” at such an early stage of a dispute? Most adjusters try to avoid that reputation. For example, I know that some plaintiffs’ lawyers will simply file suit given the reputation of some carriers. By the same token, some adjusters immediately pass along to defense counsel for trial when they see certain names as Plaintiffs’ counsel.

    My two cents.

  • mark

    I appreciate this post, Tony, because I am glad to have attorneys offering other perspectives on this blog. The purpose of this personal injury lawyer blog is to educate and discuss these issues. There are lots of blogs out there that do the whole “all insurance companies are evil” routine. Some of these blogs are actually pretty good and are educational from that perspective. But that is not our purpose with this blog.

    One thing that our lawyers do at every turn is show respect to insurance adjusters. But I don’t think I am being a pill by subtly (or even not subtly) pointing out the hypocrisy of the request. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think personal injury lawyers ask insurance companies for any information that they would not provide themselves.

    But you are right about the size of the Baltimore insurance community. With most insurance companies, State Farm, Allstate and Geico are the most notable, our lawyers regularly deal with the same adjusters. As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I recently had a nice opportunity to meet the State Farm adjusters in Owings Mills, Maryland. Having quality relationships with your adversaries in this process is mutual advantageous for both the insurance companies and injury victims and is also just a better way to live.

    I’m here in Atlanta, and have used that tactic for years.

    In fact, we have a SOP letter that says in essence that you can talk to my client if I talk to yours, OR in a case of truly disputed liability, a statement is ok PROVIDED THAT it is in furtherance of settlement and it not admissible in any other proceedings.

    When an adjuster says no to either or both of those, you know that they have zero desire to settle the case.

    By the way, in 15 years of practice, a RS has helped a grand total of two times.

  • Phil

    I am in Ohio. I have practiced both as a Plaintiff’s lawyer and as staff counsel for Allstate.

    SIU at allstate demands in-person recorded statements. Do not be deceived by this. This will have no effect on settlement.

    SIU will only offer, at most, a nuisance amount. So if your case is referred to SIU, file suit and try it. There is no other option.

  • Ron Miller

    I don’t know much about Allstate’s SIU unit. But if I hear almost any insurance company has sent a case to SIU, I make sure my client is shooting straight and then I file a Complaint. – Ron Miller

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