There’s been an accident and the parties involved agree to a settlement. But the question is: does this settlement need to be in writing or is a verbal settlement agreement acceptable?
When two parties agree to the conditions of a personal injury case they can do so verbally or in writing. A written agreement may be easier to prove, but that doesn’t make the verbal agreement any less binding. Thus, the quick answer is: yes, verbal settlement agreements are acceptable. But it might be more difficult to enforce – and it might involve a court case if one or other party changes their mind about the verbal agreement.
In most cases, there will be insurance policies that cover both the injured party and the person deemed to be at fault. An insurance adjuster will deal with the claim and will often get the parties involved to verbally agree on a settlement, trusting that the settlement agreement is fair. But it may not be, which is why it’s a good idea to handle settlements with the guidance of a personal injury attorney.
Agreements That Must be in Writing
The Georgia Code has a Statute of Frauds that specifies which agreements must be in writing, and settlement agreements aren’t one of them. The Code specifies seven promises and agreements that have to be in writing:
- Executors, trustees, administrators, and guardians that choose to promise “to answer damages” out of their own estate.
- Any promise that someone will answer for the default, debt, or miscarriage of another person.
- Agreements made on “consideration of marriage” other than the contracts and settlements relating to marriage that are listed in Title 19: Domestic Relations in the Code. The consideration of marriage agreement is basically a promise to pay a sum of money or a settlement of property once the marriage takes place.
- All contracts relating to land, including an interest in and sale of land or real property.
- Agreements that are not “performed” within a year from the time they are made.
- Promises to revive a debt that has been barred by a statute of limitation.
- Commitments to lend money.
While a verbal settlement agreement is considered binding in a personal injury case, it will not be binding if a lawsuit has been filed. In that instance, the settlement agreement must be in writing.
Additionally, if there is any dispute relating to the existence or terms of a verbal settlement agreement then it is essential to reduce the verbal agreement to writing.
Generally speaking, any form of settlement agreement is essentially a contract but, as an article in the Georgia Bar Journal states, disputes relating to settlement agreements are “the most common type of contract litigation.” In turn, many of these disputes deal with that relate to the formation of contracts.
Unfortunately, disputes often arise when people decide to handle their own personal injury settlement claims. While people think they might save money by not having an attorney represent them, they risk getting a lesser settlement or ending up in court with expenses they didn’t envision from the start.
Ultimately, settlement agreements, including those for personal injury cases, may be verbal as long as the existence of the agreement can be established without any dispute between the parties. Any verbal settlement must be definite, certain, unambiguous, and binding. The over-riding issue is that all parties agree to the terms of the settlement.
A good personal injury attorney can help resolve settlement negotiations out of court or fight for your rights in court. If your accident occurred in Georgia and you are a victim of another’s negligence, the professionals at Don Turner Legal Team can help you!