When I’m not giving my all to help injured workers fight against a system that is stacked against them, I find great joy in coaching my eight year old son’s sports teams. In fact, I have coached so many seasons and different sports that most of the parents of my son’s friends have taken to calling me “Coach Davis.” I kind of like that name and figured it’d be a good reference point for my series of tips and commentaries for injured workers and attorneys. For my inaugural blog post – and as a 48 year old man, I’m still not even 100% sure I understand what a “blog” is – I decided to offer a tip on a subject that I frequently see cause major damage to people’s cases. So, here goes nothing…
Tip: Do not give a recorded statement to the insurance company!
Injured workers frequently tell me they thought they were required to give a recorded statement to the workers’ compensation insurance company. In most workers’ compensation claims, shortly after the accident is reported an adjuster from the insurance company will call the injured worker and ask permission to take a recorded statement. That request is often accompanied by assurances that the recorded statement is a “routine” part of the process and will help the injured employee get his benefits more quickly. In my experience, the only routine thing about a recorded statement is that they are “routinely” used to deny benefits to injured workers. Most injured workers have not yet spoken with an attorney when they are asked to give a recorded statement. Moreover, many injured workers are still in the hospital, laid out at home from the effects of their injuries, or under the influence of powerful pain medications. That is not an accident! Insurance companies are looking for a chance to question the injured worker before they have a lawyer to provide some protection.
If you get the call to give a recorded statement, you have the right to answer with one word: No!
The main problem with recorded statements is that they occur on an unlevel playing field. The seriously injured worker is coping with severe pain, is wondering how he will pay his bills, and is unaccustomed to being subjected to very detailed, rapid-fire questions. Meanwhile, the experienced insurance adjuster has been trained in what questions to ask of an injured worker and how to ask those questions in a manner designed to elicit specific answers or certain words that can be used to deny the claim. Many times I have been forced to turn down a case for an injured worker because they were convinced to give a recorded statement before they called a lawyer, and they unknowingly uttered some legal phrase or term that kept them from being able to win their case. It’s heartbreaking when that happens, and I hope reading this blog entry can help stop it.
The solution is simple. When you are called and asked by an adjuster for permission to take a recorded statement, simply say “No!” There is no law or provision in the Virginia Worker’s Compensation Act that requires you to give a recorded statement, and I can find no good reason for doing so unless you have a lawyer right there with you (and usually not even then).
If you are injured on the job, I urge you to contact the Law Firm of Reinhardt|Harper|Davis, PLC for a consultation as quickly as possible after your accident to avoid this and other traps that are routinely used by the insurance company to defeat your case.
In the meantime, be on the lookout for more tips from “Coach Davis.”