Is a Verbal Release Given to an Auto Insurance Adjuster Binding?
Answer: Yes. A verbal release is given to an auto insurance adjuster under specific circumstances.
In the case of Windell Gilbert v. Cherish Fitz, 2016 WL 7384167 (Tex.App.—Dallas), The Dallas Court of Appeals held that where a plaintiff has agreed to a verbal settlement of his “reasonable medical expenses” incurred on the date of the accident “plus $500.00,” he was bound to that agreement.
Gilbert v. Fitz Background
Gilbert was in a car accident with Fitz. He suffered a fractured rib cage, fractured wrist and neck pain. He went to the hospital and incurred roughly $5,000.00 in medical expenses on the day of the wreck. 8 days after the collision, while dealing with a GEICO claims adjuster who called him and recorded the conversation, Gilbert verbally agreed to settle his claim for the medical bills he incurred on the day of the incident plus $500.00. He ended up requiring subsequent medical care to the tune of about another $10,000.00. After being poorly advised by a lawyer that the release “would not stand,” he filed a lawsuit.
Adding Insult to Injury
The attorneys for the defense answered the lawsuit and filed a counter-claim for breach of the verbal settlement agreement. Breach of Contract, even an oral contract is a cause of action that allows the party to seek attorney’s fees for if they prevail. The defense then filed asking the trial Court to grant Summary Judgment based on the long-standing rule of law in Texas that an verbal agreement is binding so long as the three requirements of a contract are met:
- an offer,
- an acceptance, and
- consideration exchanged.
The trial Court found the elements were met and granted Summary Judgment in favor of GEICO’s insured. In addition to finding there was a binding oral agreement to settle for the medical expenses incurred on the day of the accident only plus $500.00, the Trial Court awarded $10,000 in attorney fees against Gilbert, thereby completely wiping out his “settlement” and leaving him owing roughly $4,500.00.
Lessons of Gilbert
Gilbert v. Cherish demonstrates three important lessons. Those are as follows:
- A verbal agreement is still binding in Texas if you can prove it exists.
- Do not be in a rush to settle your personal injury claim even if you think you are not injured or have healed. Latent injuries may not manifest themselves until days or even weeks after an accident. You have two years to settle a standard auto claim with no government entities involved. Giving yourself a few weeks to see how you feel before considering a settlement is wise.
- An injury victim should never speak to an insurance adjuster without an attorney present. They are not there to take care of you no matter how nice they may act at the time.
- Get a free consultation from a qualified personal injury attorney before you agree to settle anything. You may have other rights you are inadvertently giving up. Call us at 1-800-298-0111 to get your free consultation today.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.