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Who you gonna call?

Heading home after work, you stop for a quick grocery run: Milk, eggs, bread--the usual. Seatbelt on, speed limit observed, you cruise down the main street, eager to get home to your family. Without warning, a car sideswipes you, sending you spinning into the side of a tree. Fortunately you sustain only a few bruises and scrapes. You do, though, have a nasty headache and your neck is pounding.

Your first inclination may be to call your insurance agent. After all, you're covered and you want to get to a doctor. You have nothing to hide, the accident wasn't your fault, and there shouldn't be any reason not to give a statement right away, should there?

There shouldn't be, but there is.

Indiana is an at-fault state, meaning that you cannot turn to your own insurance company for medical bill payments. Instead, the at-fault driver is required to pay for injuries or expenses related to the accident. That means that your statement can be used against you.

Insurance companies are very good and efficient at collecting premiums. What can be more than frustrating, however, is that they are not always good at paying out on the coverage you've purchased. And if you make a statement to your insurance company, they must--by law--hand it over to the other driver's company.

So what's the worry?

Still, you ask, what's the worry? You were obeying all traffic laws when someone else's negligence caused you to lose control of your car. Insurance claims can be paid anywhere from 1 percent to 100 percent. For every percent it is determined that you were responsible for the crash, your losses are reduced accordingly.

Here's an example: Before you stopped at the grocery store, you had been at an after-work happy hour for a parting co-worker. You had one small glass of wine. You were not charged with drunk driving, it was never noted as a factor in the crash and your blood alcohol content (BAC) was not even tested.

But in your conversation with your agent, you mention you had been at happy hour. You can be certain the opposing adjuster is going to argue that you were impaired--not drunk--just impaired. And he is going to argue that you are fifty percent responsible for the accident. Your recovery for the accident just dropped in half.

How can you protect yourself?

Never give a statement to your adjustor or agent without first retaining an attorney. A personal injury attorney that you hire works for you--and for you only. He will protect your rights under the law and ensure that you recover all damages to which you are entitled.

*Note: This scenario applies only to Indiana, which is an "at-fault" state. Kentucky is a "No-fault" state and, as such, the rules are different.

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From I-65 North across the Lincoln Bridge to Exit 0, go left at foot of exit ramp, through the stop light and drive directly into Water Tower Square.

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