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Are settlements binding?

If you settle your personal injury case with the insurance adjuster without a lawyer, can you re-open the settlement at a later date?

In a recent case decided in Ontario is a reminder to personal injury lawyers and their clients that settlement agreements reached between unrepresented claimants and insurance companies will likely be upheld and not reopened at a later date.  In Hanna v. Polanski, the plaintiff was a passenger in a motor vehicle that collided with another vehicle. He claimed damages for injuries sustained in the accident. The plaintiff was not represented by a lawyer and settle this case with the insurance adjuster directly. The insurance adjuster argued that she informed the plaintiff of the definition of the threshold and the implications of a final release being signed upon a settlement being reached. The insurance adjuster alleged that she informed the unrepresented plaintiff to obtain independent legal advice regarding the offer to settle. The plaintiff accepted an offer to settle of $5000, all-inclusive to settle his claim for damages. He was provided with a cheque which was cashed by the plaintiff. The plaintiff sought to set aside the settlement agreement reached with the insurance company directly. The insurance company filed a motion seeking summary judgment and sought to enforce the settlement agreement reached. The court concluded that it was not unreasonable for the insurance adjuster to conclude that the injuries being claimed were minor. There was evidence that the plaintiff did seek some legal advice. There was no evidence of overwhelmingly imbalanced negotiations. There was no evidence to suggest that the insurance adjuster was aware that the plaintiff was particularly vulnerable in some way. The court concluded that the plaintiff failed to meet the criteria required to set aside a settlement agreement on the basis of unconscionability. On the facts, the court concluded that the plaintiff was unable to show that the adjuster owed him a duty of care which was breached. The court also concluded that there was no evidence on grounds upon which the settlement agreement could possibly be set aside.

In general, the courts will seek to enforce settlement agreements reached without clear evidence of unconscionability or duress. This is a reminder for injured persons who choose to negotiate settlements directly with insurance companies without the involvement of a personal injury lawyer. In general terms, once an agreement is reached, the court will seek to enforce the agreement and it is very difficult to set aside a settlement agreement reached.

Our personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and work on the basis of no fee unless a settlement is reached. There is little risk in obtaining legal advice from an experienced accident and injury lawyer when dealing with trying to settle a personal injury claim with an insurance company. In most cases, our experienced accident and personal injury lawyers can obtain more compensation from the insurance company then an unrepresented party could attain without a lawyer.

To learn more about how our injury lawyers can assist you in obtaining a fair and reasonable settlement contact us for a free consultation at 613-315-4878.

Quinn Thiele Mineault Grodzki LLP
Ottawa Accident, Insurance and Injury Lawyers
613-315-4878