Following a Washington automobile accident, insurance companies often rush to settle with any injured victims. When injury victims settle too quickly, they may not be fully compensated for their injuries. If the injury victim settles with the insurance company and agrees to release the other driver from all claims, he or she will generally not be able to recover for injuries discovered or treatment received after the release.
A settlement agreement and release is a contract, and contract law applies. To form a contract, the parties must “mutually assent” to the essential terms. Settlement agreements do not have to be in writing under Washington law. In a recent case, an injury victim challenged an alleged oral settlement and release due to a language barrier.
The plaintiff was involved in a vehicle accident and received medical treatment for his injuries. Although the plaintiff’s English is sufficient for his day-to-day activities, he uses an interpreter for legal and medical matters. An insurance representative called him less than a month after the accident to discuss settlement. The call was recorded. The insurance representative stated that purpose of the recording was “to verify that in exchange for [$3,785.51]” the plaintiff agreed to release the defendants “for any and all claims known and unknown for injuries [he] sustained in as a result of the accident…” She asked if he understood and agreed to release the defendants in exchange for $3,785.51.