What You Need to Know About Verbal Settlement Agreements For Injury Claims
Talking to the insurance company after a Minnesota car crash is dangerous because you may be tempted to accept a settlement.
Insurance companies may make a property damage offer and add a few hundred for the rest. You might verbally agree because you are desperate for compensation and do not know how much your case may be worth. You might not know property claims cannot be bound to injury claims as “take it or leave it” offers.
Backing out of a verbal settlement agreement can be complicated. You should discuss the situation with an experienced attorney before signing anything. A lawyer may still be able to negotiate for more compensation.
Call the Minneapolis-based auto accident lawyers at TSR Injury Law for a free legal consultation.
No upfront fees or legal obligations. Call (612) TSR-TIME.
What is a Settlement Agreement in a Personal Injury Case?
Settlements are legally enforceable contracts signed by two or more parties to resolve a dispute. A car crash settlement is typically a written agreement between the victim of a car crash and an insurance company. The settlement ends the victim’s claim against the insurance company in exchange for compensation for damages.
The settlement also includes a section releasing the insurance company from any future liability for damages from the crash. Once the agreement is signed and compensation is paid out, the victim is barred from seeking any more compensation from the insurance company for the crash.
How are Settlement Agreements Reached?
Sometimes the victim of a Minnesota car crash files a claim on his or her own and reaches a settlement with the insurance company. Some crash victims hire an attorney and he or she negotiates a settlement with the insurance company.
When working with an attorney, he or she begins the process by investigating the crash and the victim’s damages and then drafts a demand letter requesting a certain amount of compensation. The demand letter explains why the victim should receive compensation and includes evidence to back up the argument. The insurance company typically rejects the attorney’s first offer, which starts the negotiation process. Both sides are likely to go back and forth until they reach an agreement.
Can You Verbally Agree to a Settlement?
Accident victims could verbally accept a settlement offer in a phone conversation with the insurance company or in person at the company’s office.
Verbal agreements can be difficult to enforce, so you may be able to rescind your acceptance in writing. The agreement might not be legally binding until you sign it.
How Should I Respond to a Settlement Offer?
When you think about when to accept a settlement offer, remember that you do not have to say “yes” or “no” right away. You should not be making decisions on the insurance company’s timeline, no matter how hard the adjuster pushes you for an answer. You need to do what is in your best interest.
You can tell the adjuster that you need time to consider the offer. You can also tell the adjuster you plan to discuss the offer with your lawyer.
It is perfectly OK to have second thoughts or feel apprehensive about accepting a quick settlement offer. The insurance company is only trying to scare you when they say you will not get any compensation if you reject their first offer. This is an intimidation tactic. They are just trying to mislead you.
Why You Might Have Second Thoughts About an Insurance Settlement Agreement
Initial settlement offers are often inadequate because it is not in the insurance company’s best interests to offer full compensation. Their profit margin is enhanced every time they can quickly settle for $1,000. when a case is truly worth $10,000 or more.
It is also difficult to assess the value of a claim so early in the process. Victims need to finish their treatment, and doctors need to see if your injury will have any long-term effects. It is only at that point that doctors can determine if you need ongoing treatment or if your injuries will impact your ability to work or live the rest of your life pain free.
If doctors and your attorney need time to determine the value of your case, there is no way the insurance company can know what it may be worth.
Your lawyer needs time to assess your damages, which may include:
- Emergency transport from the scene of the crash
- Medical testing right after the crash and during your treatment
- Prescription and over-the-counter medication
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Physical therapy
- Pain and suffering
- And more
Can a Verbal Settlement Offer be Rescinded?
This is a complex question and multiple factors need to be considered to answer it.
For example, did you agree to the insurance company recording your phone conversation? If so, and you said you agreed to a settlement offer, it will be more difficult to undue the contract. Text messages or emails could also be used against you if you try to rescind your acceptance of the insurance settlement agreement.
However, verbal settlement agreements may have a hard time holding up in court. One of the issues that may need to be decided in court is whether you verbally agreed with the intent to stick to the agreement. If there is proof of this, including proof you later changed your mind, the insurance company’s position may be favored.
Was the agreement for property damage and got expanded to all matter? The greater the overreach, the easier it is to cancel the agreement.
It is very important that you do not sign anything until discussing it with a lawyer. While the insurance company is focused on paying out the smallest settlement, an experienced attorney should be focused on obtaining maximum compensation.
Making Insurance Companies Wait
You may be concerned about making the insurance company wait. However, insurance companies often try to convince crash victims they need to accept the first offer because there will not be another one. This is often not the case, particularly when you have an attorney advocating for you.
Insurance companies often argue “why hire an attorney? They will simply take half of your settlement.” This is not true. Some services like property damage and medical bills paid by no fault are done without a charge.
In addition, well known statistics show people with an attorney often get three times the settlement as those without representation. So even after paying a fee, people with attorneys come out ahead and have the comfort of knowing the settlement was done legally correct.
You have the right to discuss a settlement offer with an attorney before agreeing to it. If you already gave verbal acceptance, you may need to formally rescind your acceptance offer. This is something an attorney should be able to assist you with. You should call a lawyer right away, because, if you delay, the insurance company may use this against you.
What Happens if You Sign a Settlement Offer?
Once you sign a settlement offer, it is very unlikely you will be able to back out of it. Settlement offers usually contain clauses releasing insurance companies from any future liability for the accident in question.
That is why you need to be certain the settlement offer provides all the compensation you will need. The best way to do that is to talk to an experienced lawyer about it. The lawyers at TSR Injury Law are focused on your best interest and will fight to recover maximum compensation.
What if My Injury Gets Worse Later?
Your injury could worsen after you sign the settlement agreement and you have received all your compensation. However, you cannot pursue more compensation at this point.
You need to make sure the settlement provides compensation for any medical expenses and other damages you may accrue in the future. You also need to account for worsening of your injury. This is something your lawyer can evaluate by reviewing medical records, talking to doctors and possibly medical and economic experts.
Was the Agreement Reached in Good Faith?
Unless you can prove the insurance company committed fraud, coerced you into settling or you can prove a lack of mental capability to understand the contract, it is unlikely you would be able to seek more compensation. In other words, the settlement may be unenforceable if it was entered into in bad faith.
That said, it is very difficult to prove a settlement was not agreed to in good faith.
Need Help After a Car Crash? Set Up a Free Consultation Today
Car crash claims are often worth more than the insurance company says they are. Their goal is to pay out the least possible amount to protect their bottom line.
That is why it is important to meet with a licensed attorney to discuss your claim. TSR Injury Law has obtained over $1 billion in compensation on behalf of our clients. Your initial consultation is free, and there are no upfront fees while we work on your case.
Call Today for Legal Assistance. Phone: (612) TSR-TIME.