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Judge rules oral settlement agreement in Texas was binding

Another reason that people who try to handle their own personal injury claims get burned is illustrated in the case of Windell Gilbert Vs. Cherish Fitz from the Court of Appeals in the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas, Case 05-16-00218-CV. View the case.

In the Gilbert case, a personal injury victim had attempted to deal directly with the insurance adjuster, had given a recorded telephone statement and in the telephone statement orally agreed to take 500 dollars plus payment of his “reasonable” medical expenses from the day of the crash.

The facts of the case are as follows: the injured person’s car was rear-ended by the other driver, and he was transported to the hospital by ambulance. At the hospital, he was treated for a neck injury, a fractured wrist, and a fractured rib.

One week later, the adjuster for the driver’s insurance company that rear-ended the plaintiff called to discuss the accident and his injuries, and he agreed to give a recorded telephone statement to the adjuster. In the statement, the plaintiff agreed with the adjuster to settle the case for reasonable medical expenses on the day of the crash plus $500.

The adjuster carefully documented the oral agreement in the telephone statement.

The insurance company promptly sent a letter to the victim with a check for $500 which contained release language on the check. The victim never cashed the check upon advice from an attorney he hired to help him with the case.

An attorney for the victim filed a lawsuit for reasonable damages and the victim’s insurance company counterclaimed for breach of a settlement agreement. In the end, the insurance company won the case by summary judgment and was awarded $10,000 attorneys’ fees on top of the verdict.

Lessons to Learn in Handling Your Own Injury Claim

There are some easy lessons for someone handling their personal injury case from this fact situation:

  1. Do not consider a settlement soon after an accident if you are unsure of your injuries or your need for future medical expenses.
  2. Do not give a recorded statement to an adverse insurance adjuster unless you are prepared to accept the consequences of doing so.
  3. If you agree to an oral settlement agreement with the adjuster, you may be held to that agreement regardless of how it may impact you.
  4. Agreeing to let the adverse insurance company pay your “reasonable medical expenses” can be a nightmare as you are letting them determine what is reasonable and do not know what amounts they will pay.

In short, this case illustrates that a personal injury victim who agrees to settle the claim in a recorded telephone conversation may be stuck with the deal, even when it is a terrible and unfair deal.

One of the biggest mistakes that personal injury victims make shortly after an accident and before they know the nature and extent of all of their injuries is giving a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster. Many may wish to cooperate with the insurance company; in that regard, they may be better off giving a non-recorded statement to the adjuster. We advise you not to give any statements without talking to a qualified attorney first.

No law requires giving recorded statements to the other person’s insurance company pre-litigation. This case illustrates yet another way insurers will take advantage of people trying to handle their cases without an attorney.

Want to Speak With a Top-Rated Injury Lawyer?

Call the Baumgartner Law Firm at 281-587-1111 for a no-obligation consultation on a Texas personal injury claim.


Related Links

What You Need to Know About Dealing with an Insurance Adjuster on a Personal Injury Claim(Opens in a new browser tab)

Secrets of Handling Your Own Personal Injury Case- Revealed!

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Accounting After An Injury Settlement in Texas