When a GMAC Insurance adjuster offered a claimant $1,742.88 to settle her bodily injury claim, the adjuster led the claimant to believe that would all be her money. The adjuster failed to tell the claimant she would have to repay her health insurance company out of that money. Lucky for the claimant, before she accepted the settlement proceeds and signed the release, she contacted Steve Moore at Moore & Wolfe. Steve reviewed the facts of the motor vehicle collision and the claim with her. He pointed out the fine print in the proposed release that said the claimant would have to pay back her health insurance company from the settlement proceeds. “In this case, it appears the health insurance company’s subrogation claim will exceed the $1700 offer, so she would’ve received no benefit from the settlement,” said Moore.
In Alabama bodily injury claimants have two things working against them when trying to deal with an insurance adjuster. First, liability insurance adjusters are considered adversaries and therefore claimants are not entitled to rely on statements made by adjusters. In some stunning case law, our Courts have said claimants should know better than to rely on a representation made by a liability adjuster. The second factor that works against claimants is that a signed document trumps an oral representation. This is because in Alabama if you sign your name to a document, you are deemed to have read and understood the content and terms of the document, no matter what somone may have told you.
In the situation above, even though the adjuster said or implied the settlement funds would belong to the claimant, the release said otherwise. If she had signed the release and accepted the funds, then she would have been stuck paying her health insurance company back even though the adjuster may have said or implied otherwise.
This just another example of the difficulties faced by personal injury victims and claimants in Alabama. At M&W we have been advocating and lobbying for an Insurance Claimant’s Bill of Rights for many years. Simply put, we need legislation to protect claimants in these type situations. Moore said, “we see situations every day where legitimate claimants suffer because the rules and regulations of our State benefit the insurance companies over the rights of the victim.”