KramersLaw.com

Recorded Statements in Insurance Claims Investigations for Litigation Purposes

Recorded Statements in Insurance Claims Investigations for Litigation PurposesThe heart of every claims investigation is the recorded statement. If conducted properly, the transcript of a witness interview may be extremely valuable in evaluating liability, damages, and coverage.  It may also assist in "locking the witness" into certain accounts of events which may protect the insured and/or the carrier in later litigation. However, if conducted improperly, the recorded statement may still form the "heart" of the case -- a bad faith claim against the insurance carrier.  For these reasons, it is essential that recorded statements be conducted thoroughly and properly.  While a complete discussion of recorded statements would truly encompass the breadth of claims investigation as a whole, the following outline provides a checklist of the essential components of all recorded witness statements:

OPENING STATEMENTS AND QUESTIONS

Starting Recorded Statements - after identifying yourself [NOT your insurance company] and getting permission to record the statement, turn on the tape and say:

"This is [your name] interviewing [witness] at [address] on [date]. It concerns an accident occurred at [location of accident] on [date of loss]."

PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS: There are two essential questions which all claims adjusters must ask the witness at the very start of each statement:

  1. "Ms. Witness, will you please state your full name." [have the witness spell any unusual names]
  2. "Is this recording being made with your full knowledge and consent?"

SUBSTANTIVE QUESTIONS

Witness/Claimant Background

Who is Claimant?

  • Personal Life
  • Business Life

Relationship with Insured

  • how did Claimant meet insured?
  • nature/length of relationship?

Incident Itself

  • go beyond 4 Ws = who? what? when? where? ==> ask questions telling us "WHY?"
  • Advance warning? Contributory negligence / Assumption of risk?
    1. What precipitated incident?
    2. Advance warning? Contributory negligence / Assumption of risk?
    3. Preventative Measures?
  • What happened???
  • Efforts to mitigate damages; correct or stop the problem before it intensified?
  • Witnesses; who was where in relation to occurrence?

Aftermath

  • How long remain at scene?
  • Immediate impact of occurrence
  1. physical sensations immediately afterward
  • Persons arriving at scene
  1. Conversations
  2. PROBE> Who else may be responsible for claim?

Damages - obtain an itemization of:

  1. hard costs
  2. non-economic damages [like pain and suffering]
  3. consequential damages [lost wages/lost contracts]

Conversations/Contacts After Date of Loss

  • Claimant> consulted with attorney? / planning to?
  • Other Witnesses> interviewed by other attorneys or investigators? Subsequent conversations with Claimant? Did anyone try to influence their account?

Prior Claims / Injuries / Damages

Coverage Questions

CONCLUDING RECORDED STATEMENTS

Always ask three vital questions before turning off the tape:

  1. "Ms. Witness, do you wish to add anything?"
  2. "Are the remarks you have made in this recording your true version to the best of your knowledge?"
  3. "Has this recording been made with your full knowledge and consent?"
The material provided in this section is designed for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to seek the representation of competent attorneys to protect their legal rights. The slogans, High-Speed Access to Legal Action, Legal Advice, Legal Counsel, Legal Protection, State & Federal Courts, Dispute & Conflict Resolution, Probate Protection, Legal News, Legal Training & Seminars, and the substantial equivalent thereof are service marks of Kramer & Connolly.