by Kenneth Knabe, Greater Cleveland’s car and bike accident injury Attorney. 216 228 7200
In a very recent decision, the Court of Appeals of Cuyahoga County upheld a settlement by a pro se (unrepresented) auto accident injury victim who—prior to seeking the advice of an attorney—accepted $1,500 from the at fault driver’s insurance company, when he had $7,505 in medical expenses! The injured person never cashed the $1500 check; instead, he finally hired a lawyer who then tried to rescind the unfair oral agreement. The Court refused to rescind the oral agreement and upheld the $1500 settlement stating that an oral binding contract took place under the following recorded verbal exchange between the at fault insurance adjuster and the unrepresented injured person:
“Q. The purpose of this recorded conversation is to make record of the bodily injury settlement of a claim by Mr. Michon Bailey Sr. for bodily injury resulting from an automobile accident on November 6th, 2014 in Cleveland Heights, Ohio involving an automobile driven by Alissa Vaughn uh [sic] and also insured under the name of Alissa Vaughn. Is this correct[?] A. Yes[.]
The Court then stated: “The transcript proves that the settlement contained the elements of an enforceable contract: the insurer’s offer to settle any claims for personal injury arising from the automobile accident involving Bailey and Vaughn, Bailey’s acceptance of the offer, Bailey’s agreement to accept $1,500 as consideration for agreeing to settle his claim, and a manifestation of a mutual assent to the terms.1”
Let’s look at the third question. Although he answered “yes”, I very much doubt this accident victim really knew what “indemnify and hold harmless” meant? It means that whoever paid the $7,505 in medical bills could have a full right to recover it all back out of the settlement check of $1,500…likely resulting in this person ending up with absolutely no monetary recovery from the accident!
Statutes should exist barring insurance companies from taking advantage of accident victims, and allowing accident victims to rescind a patently unfair offer accepted without an attorney’s counsel. However, such Statutes do NOT currently exist so those injured in car or bike accidents need to protect themselves and not agree to settlements without counsel.