What does it really mean to "settle" an Oregon auto injury case?

Many times, when people consult with our office, there may have been some discussion with an insurance adjuster on settling an auto injury claim, whether be in Oregon or Washington. Often times, we find that many people raise good questions about what it exactly means to settle their case.

Essentially, settling any kind of claim involves releasing your rights to further pursue the claim in exchange for payment of a sum of money. However, many settlement agreements go out of their way to make it clear what exactly is involved in the agreement. Not all settlement agreements are the same, but they often include the following provisions:

  • Auto insurance companies are responsible for paying the claims made against their the people they insure. A settlement agreement will make sure that the injured party knows she is releasing not only the insured and the insurance company, but anybody remotely associated with the driver and the insurance company from any liability. This provision usually rambles on, naming any possible person or entity that may be potentially responsible for causing injury.
  • Most settlement agreements will include a statement that the responsible party, by resolving the claim, is not admitting to any liability or fault. There are many possible motives for this provision. For example, the auto collision may involve several people, and many cars, and if a responsible insurance company admits fault for causing one injury, it may be concerned about admitting fault for causing injuries to others.
  • Settlement agreements will make sure that the injured party understands that she is releasing her claim for her injuries that she actually knows about, but also any future or unknown injuries. This provision stresses that the settlement agreement is final, and even if some unknown injury comes to the surface after the agreement is signed, the settlement agreement shuts down a right to make a claim for the new injury.
  • Many settlement agreements also include a “hold harmless” clause. This provision usually addresses payment of medical expenses. In some cases, a case may resolved by settlement, and a medical provider may have gone unpaid. This type of provision make certain that if a medical provider is still owed money after the settlement, the responsibility for paying the bill or defending claims for payment of the bill lies with the party who resolve the case, not the insurance company or the negligent driver. In other words, the injured person is agreeing to take on any claims for payment of medical bills after the case resolves, and hold the insurance company harmless from those claims.
  • A similar provision involves inclusion of any outstanding medical bills or liens. In some cases, an injured person may agree to resolve the case for a certain sum of money, but that sum of money will include any insurance liens or responsibility for outstanding medical expenses. Again, the insurance company is making sure it has no other financial obligation for the claim.
  • Rarely, an insurance company will seek a confidentiality clause as part of the settlement agreement. This is common with high profile cases or cases involving catastrophic injury. Some corporate defendants or large insurance companies will not want an injured party to publish or disclose the nature of the agreement, or the amount of settlement.

If you are facing an injury claim in Oregon or Washington, and have questions about potential settlement, and how these agreements were, call us at 503-325-8600. We have extensive experience working through settlement agreements.