Try this: think back to the last time you saw a near-miss collision on the road.
Perhaps a driver switched lanes without checking their mirrors, almost knocking a motorcyclist off their bike? Or maybe they cut in at a round-about, causing another driver to slam on the brakes?
Whatever the incident, take a moment to recall as many details as you can.
What did the driver look like? What vehicle were they in? How close were they to a collision? How busy was traffic at that exact moment?
If the incident you remember happened recently, there’s a good chance you can probably piece together a fairly accurate account of what occurred: the time of day, the amount of traffic on the street, the sound of a car horn as an annoyed motorist took evasive action.
However, research into memory – and more specifically, eye-witness testimony – tells us that there is a big factor which affects our recollection of an event: stress.
The more stressful the incident, the better we are at accurately recalling the details. However, crucially, when that level of stress reaches a tipping point, the inverse is true – we start to become much worse at recalling the event accurately.
In other words, a ‘moderately’ stressful event imprints itself on our memory fairly well, allowing us to recall most of the details with an impressive degree of accuracy.
However, if we dial up the level of stress caused to the witness (or, indeed, participant) their ability to accurately recall the event starts to nose dive.
This is when we start to see glaring inconsistencies between different people all observing the same event.
What this proves, of course, is that the human memory is fallible. For Tangiers International’s team of case managers and agents, this can pose a problem.
Tangiers International deals with a wide variety of cases in a wide variety of locations – from workplace accidents in sub-Saharan Africa to rocket attacks in Afghanistan – meaning claimants may have undergone wildly different experiences, from an unpleasant ‘day at the office’ to a genuinely traumatic experience.
In order to settle a claim fairly and efficiently, Tangiers’ case managers and agents will visit a claimant in person in order to obtain an accurate account of an incident. To do this, they must be aware of the pitfalls which accompany human recollection – and how to avoid them.
In fact, many Tangiers International case managers have a background in law enforcement or law – meaning they are well-versed in taking witness statements and some of the techniques that can be employed to ensure accuracy.
These includes asking open questions, checking and rechecking details, being careful not to plant ideas in the claimant’s head and accepting that sometimes a fuzzy recollection is preferable to an incorrect one.
By following best practice when interviewing a claimant, Tangiers International ensures that claims are settled as efficiently as possible, preventing the unnecessary delays which accompany confusion around an event.
Memory may be flawed, but with the aid of an experienced interviewer, it is still a vital tool for ascertaining the truth.