Doubtful and disputed claim waiver? What does that mean? Personal injury Attorney Ben Schwartz answers the question below.

Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz,

Today we are going to answer a viewer question from Sherry in Wilmington, Delaware. Sherry wrote in she said, “The at-fault drivers’ insurance company, in my car accident case, is offering to settle my case, but they want me to sign a waiver stating that my claim is a doubtful and disputed claim. What does that mean and should I not sign that piece of paper?”

Sherry what they are asking you to do is to sign a general release and basically, by signing that general release, you are agreeing that you will never make any further claim. You will not file a lawsuit.

Typically, in releases, it will say specifically that your claim is  “doubtful and disputed.” A lot of people see that language and they say, well that is not a doubtful or disputed claim, I am making a legitimate claim, that is why the insurance company is offering to pay a settlement. And that is true, but what you have to understand is that in personal injury cases, the insurance company is stepping-in and clearing up the dispute on behalf of the individual or the company that they insure. For example, if you’re rear-ended at a stoplight by a drunk driver, that drunk driver is not paying you out of pocket to settle the claim. That drunk drivers’ insurance company is stepping up to the plate and paying the settlement in order to prevent you from suing that drunk driver and going against him or her personally.

When you have a situation where essentially an insurance company is stepping-in to settle something, they do not want to do anything that could be seen as binding on their insured. They cannot step-in and speak for that drunk driver and say, I am sorry I hit you, it is a legitimate claim and I am paying money. They do not have the authority to do that. They are just the insurance company stepping in to try and settle the claim to prevent the case from going any farther. What they do is they include in the release, language that indicates that by paying you money they are not agreeing that you had a legitimate claim, they are not in effect taking it upon themselves to apologize for what their driver did; that is not their place. Their place is just to pay the settlement and close out the claim and resolve the litigation or resolve the dispute before it becomes litigation. When you see that language, what it really means is, we are just getting this settled so it does not go any farther. That might not be very satisfying if you have been seriously injured as a result of the negligence of another driver or the negligence of some other at-fault party, but that is what that language means.

If you have had a personal injury case and you are dealing with the insurance company and you are about to settle the claim and you would like us to review the release (or) review the case, make sure that the insurance company is not taking advantage of you, send me an email below. I can set it up so that you can sit down with an attorney, a personal injury attorney in my firm in the area where your accident happened. If it happened in Maryland, you can sit down with one of our Maryland attorneys. If it happened in Pennsylvania, you can sit down with one of our Pennsylvania attorneys. If it happened in Delaware, you can meet with one of our Delaware attorneys. We will review the case for you. We will talk to you about what the reasonable settlement amount might be. We can review the documentation, like the release, and make sure you are not signing something that is totally unfair to you or that really benefits the insurance company at great cost to you. I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz, it was a great question. If you have a question that you would like me to answer in video format, send me an email below.