Many insurance companies in Oregon are making a habit of showing up at the homes of those victimized in a car accident within a few days of the collision. They show up with a release form and a lowball payment of around $500 to settle injury claims. It’s rarely advisable to accept such a settlement.
Injuries from car accidents often develop over time. If you sign the release and take the money now, your case will be “settled.” You will have no recourse if you later learn that you need surgery or other medical treatments. It is the author’s opinion that this is a highly unethical practice. The insurance company wants to get out of the claim for as little as possible to your detriment. They want to get the release signed before you know the true extent of your injuries.
Although the Oregon legislature has taken steps to curtail this practice, it’s still far too common. The important changes are codified in ORS 742.548. First, if an insurance adjuster gets a release signed in person it must now include the following disclaimer in a clear and conspicuous place:
THE DOCUMENT YOU ARE BEING ASKED TO SIGN IS A BINDING CONTRACT THAT CONCLUDES YOUR CLAIM(S) AGAINST THE PARTIES IT IDENTIFIES. AFTER YOU SIGN IT YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO MAKE ANY FURTHER CLAIM(S) AGAINST THESE PARTIES.
This statute also allows injured persons to rescind the settlement agreement within five (5) days. It’s very common for us to get phone calls from injured persons who have recently signed a settlement agreement and want to rescind. This consumer protection is extremely valuable to injured persons dealing with insurance companies. Kudos to the people who pushed this consumer oriented statute through the legislature.