Research has shown that human memory deteriorates over time. The more time passes between the moment a memory is made and the time it needs to be remembered, the less accurate recall is likely to be. Unfortunately for defense lawyers, by the time a file appears on our desk, months if not years have likely passed since the event that gave rise to the claim. By the time we have a chance to interview witnesses or ask the plaintiff questions under oath, the answer “I can’t recall” becomes all too common.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem: the recorded statement. By taking timely and detailed recorded statements from the plaintiff, witnesses, and insured; or, in the workers’ compensation setting, from the employee and employer; an adjuster can help set down on paper details that are likely to disappear from people’s memory banks.
Timely recorded statements are taken before most people have had a chance to develop their litigation strategies, and so useful answers are easier to get. And useful does not always mean honest. A personal injury claimant with a questionable claim is more likely to claim that he never felt pain in his back before the accident if he does not yet know that he will have to turn his medical records over to the other side. Such statements can then be key to impeaching claimants or witnesses who wish to tailor their stories to fit their legal theories.