It is understandable for an accident victim to want to reach a settlement agreement with the liable insurance company as soon as possible. There are many reasons for this, but mostly because medical bills are likely piling up and it is getting difficult to keep up with them.
Insurance companies know this and make sure to make a lowball offer right away to try to get the victim to accept it before he or she has time to speak with a lawyer.
Be sure to contact our Sacramento personal injury lawyers before you speak to the insurance company. During your free consultation we can discuss the facts of your claim to determine what your legal options may be, helping you to avoid accepting a settlement offer that does not meet your needs.
Below, we discuss what legal options may be available to you if you have already verbally accepted a settlement offer from the insurance company.
A verbal agreement, also known as an oral contract, may be created when two or more parties come to an agreement on something without any written documentation.
Generally, a verbal agreement can be enforced if one party can provide proof of the oral contract. For example, if the insurance company recorded a conversation you had with an adjuster who made a settlement offer and you agreed to it.
There are some other important elements to consider about a verbal agreement to determine whether it can be enforced.
First, there must be a clear offer. This means the insurance adjuster cannot imply an offer is being made. He or she must directly make the offer and you must accept it as is. If you make a counteroffer, then that becomes the new offer, and the adjuster must decide whether the insurance company will comply.
Another important element to consider is whether the terms of the offer are clear to you, meaning the insurance company cannot have a hidden agenda. It is important to note that the insurance company trying to avoid a lawsuit is not generally considered a hidden agenda, as the purpose of a settlement is to avoid the courtroom.
Lastly, you must be of sound mind to accept the offer and must have done so without coercion or duress.
When a verbal settlement agreement fails to satisfy all the required criteria of enforceability, its legality can be questioned. In other words, the agreement is unenforceable.
In California, all parties involved in a confidential conversation must provide consent to be recorded. Therefore, if you agreed to a settlement offer during a phone call you were unaware was being recorded, your verbal agreement may not be enforceable.
Just as the insurance company’s offer must be clear, so must your verbal acceptance of it. A verbal acceptance may not be enforceable if you hinted at accepting the offer if some other demands were met.
If the insurance company claims there is only a set amount available for compensation due to low policy limits, but you can prove there is more insurance available, your verbal acceptance may be rescinded since the terms of the offer were not complete. Additionally, if the insurance company does not make it clear to you that if you accept the offer, you cannot pursue additional compensation, your verbal agreement may not be enforceable.
Sometimes insurance companies will try and call injury victims right away after an accident to get them to accept a settlement offer. However, victims who suffered significant injuries may not be in the right state of mind to make such a decision. Your attorney may be able to have your verbal agreement tossed out because you were under duress or were coerced.
You may be able to file a lawsuit or begin negotiating for more compensation even if you verbally accepted a settlement, if you can prove your acceptance is unenforceable.
To do this, your attorney will need to ensure there is no recording of you accepting a settlement, and if there is then he or she must establish that you were coerced into accepting.
Even though it may be possible to file a lawsuit after accepting a settlement, you should speak to a lawyer before the insurance company.
It is usually not a good idea to accept the first offer from the insurance company because it rarely covers the full extent of your damages. It would be in your best interest to speak to one of our licensed attorneys before talking to the insurance company. Insurers would prefer the opposite because you may be more likely to accept a lowball offer.
The consultation is free and there are no upfront fees.
Call 916-777-7777 to learn more.