You need to be careful about what you say to an insurance adjuster on the phone after an accident because you may be settling your case without realizing what you've done.
I recently received a phone call from an insurance company adjuster who took the position that a car accident victim settled their case on the phone before consulting a lawyer.
The adjuster said, they spoke to the person, they made and offer and the person agreed to the offer.
A personal injury settlement is a contract. The legal elements of a contract are an offer, acceptance and consideration.
An offer is the definition of the word. The Insurance adjuster says I will pay you five bucks for the damage to your car.
If you say “OK”. You've accepted the offer. There is valid consideration because money, the five bucks, is changing hands. When talking about consideration – some folks use the term a bargained for exchange.
What happens with some car accident victims is they say yes on the phone, thinking that the contract has to be in writing, and then they get buyer's remorse. When when the insurance adjuster sends the settlement documents, they do not sign them and pretend they don't exist. In the victim's mind, the case is not settled because they did not sign the settlement agreement.
This is bad practice if you are injured in a car accident victim. Generally, it is more difficult to prove up an oral contract but it can be done. What happens if the phone call was recorded for quality assurance purposes like you hear on the phone all the time?
The better practice when an adjuster makes an offer is to ask them to put it in writing and send it over and you will respond in writing.
This practice does a couple of things.
It will make sure that you did not misunderstand what the adjuster said; and
You will not be pressured to settle – you can think about making the decision or consult with somebody about the decision.
Remember, if you're injured in an accident, be careful to what you say to the adjuster – they are professionals and negotiate settlements all the time.