Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion in a car accident case involving a plaintiff who signed a waiver of liability in favor of the defendant insurance company. The case required the court to determine if the waiver was valid. Finding that there was some evidence suggesting that the plaintiff was subject to undue influence when asked to sign the release, the court permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed toward trial for a jury to make the final determination.
The case presents an important issue for Maryland car accident victims who may have signed a release of liability that grossly favors the other side.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was involved in a car accident with another driver. The facts suggested that the other driver was at fault. The at-fault driver’s insurance company sent out an insurance adjuster to discuss the possibility of settling the plaintiff’s claim.
Soon after beginning a conversation with the plaintiff, the adjuster realized that the plaintiff had no knowledge of insurance claims and had been receiving Social Security benefits for an intellectual disability. Despite this, the adjuster offered the plaintiff $500 for general damages and $3,000 for medical expenses. The plaintiff agreed.
Later, the plaintiff sought medical treatment totaling $5,000, and the adjuster amended the agreement to include up to $8,000 in medical expenses. Subsequent to that, the plaintiff obtained more medical care, totaling $400,000. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, seeking to invalidate the release waiver because it did not cover the vast majority of her injuries. The plaintiff claimed that she was subject to undue influence when she signed the release and that as a result of that undue influence, it should not be enforced.
The Court’s Decision
The court began by discussing the doctrine of undue influence. The court explained that there are four elements a plaintiff must establish to succeed in a claim of undue influence. They are:
- The person must be subject to undue influence;
- The requesting party had the opportunity to exert influence and effect a wrongful purpose;
- The requesting party used the opportunity for an improper purpose; and
- The result clearly shows that undue influence was used.
The court noted that the plaintiff did have an intellectual disability and knew nothing of the claims settlement process. Additionally, the court found that the $8,000 designated for medical expenses clearly favored the insurance company, given that the plaintiff’s medical expense exceeded $400,000. Finally, the court noted that the adjuster knew the plaintiff’s medical expenses were far more than the settlement amount, indicating he was attempting to exert his influence over the plaintiff.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Maryland personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience handling all types of Maryland accident claims, including car accident cases. We even handle cases in which our clients have signed release waivers. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Affirms Defense Verdict in Car Accident Case, Despite Defendant’s Admission, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published March 2, 2018.
Maryland Court Discusses Admissibility of Medical Records in Recent Car Accident Case, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published February 16, 2018.