The following is a posting on a listserve I belong to for Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers. It was posted by another lawyer seeking opinions and advice. It does not concern a client of mine, but it is certainly instructive for anyone injured in an accident.
I have written before on this blog site, on my web site, as well as in other written materials about what can be questionable practices on the part of insurance companies and their representatives. My purpose is educate the public on some of these practices. I know insurance companies do. The consumer may not. What follows is a remarkable story but not altogether that uncommon.
This story is somewhat long winded, but I think all of the facts set
forth are necessary to get a full appreciation of the case. Friday of
last week, (2/19/10) a woman (client), married, mother of 2 (17 & 21)
shows up in the office and tells me the following: On the previous
Monday (2/15/10) she was involved in an intersectional motor vehicle accident where the
other party went through stop sign. She was alone. Other driver admits
fault at scene and liability is not an issue. Air bags deploy on
client’s vehicle; her vehicle is SEVERELY damaged, but I don’t know if
it is totaled. She has bruising on her legs with neck and back pain.
She goes to the emergency room. and is released with prescriptions for narcotic pain medication and instructions to see family doctor. The NEXT day, the insurance adjuster
begins calling and wants to schedule in home visit for the stated
purpose of getting a recorded statement. Client is hurting, feeling
effects of the pain meds and resists. However, husband, upset over the
car damage, wants to get that resolved ASAP and talks he into meeting
with the adjuster (after several more calls from the adjuster) and
meeting is held in the home on Thursday 2/18/10. She is alone. He
takes statement and showers her with flattery and sympathy, telling her
that, while he doesn’t do this for most people, she is entitled to
“something for her pain and suffering” and suddenly and unexpectedly,
offers her $1000. She is nonplussed, and says OK. He pulls out a
release and his checkbook and writes a check on the spot. She is not
offered the opportunity to discuss this with her family or an attorney;
nor is a copy of the release left with her. Of course, when husband got
home and she explained what happened, he is quite upset to say the
least. She calls the adjuster the nex day, Friday 2/19/10 and tells
adjuster she doesn’t want to settle. He, in effect, tells her to pound
sand; “too bad, you signed a release.”
She is hurting quite badly; in fact she went to the emergency room on Saturday
because of severe neck and back pain.
What can be done in a situation like this? There may be ways to defeat the release. The injured person who signed a release was in pain, had received narcotic medication from the emergency room, and so on. Defeating the release will require a lawsuit against the insurance company and probably against the adjuster personally. The allegations in the lawsuit could consist of fraud and misrepresentation, unjust enrichment on the part of the insurance company, detrimental reliance and conspiracy. But make no mistake. Is a difficult proposition to defeat the insurance company once a release is signed. However, being forewarned is being forearmed. Be aware of your rights in the event you are involved in an accident and the insurance company representative comes knocking at your door with a check and release in hand.