A simple verbal agreement can stand for a lot more than one might think. In fact, an oral acceptance of a settlement “often made in haste and without full consideration of the facts” may be all that’s necessary to enter into a legally binding contract with ICBC.
A recent BC Supreme Court case, Varesi v. Cadelina, highlights the risks of entering into such a verbal agreement.
The plaintiff, Ms. Varesi, is injured in a car accident and suffers soft tissue injuries. After some back-and-forth with an ICBC adjuster, and without having her own legal counsel, Ms. Varesi accepts an offer over the phone worth $4,216. Later that same day, she has second thoughts, realizing the settlement will not cover future expenses for the ongoing treatment and care of her injuries. Since she did not sign anything in the first place, she assumes that there is no binding agreement in place and tells the adjuster that she wants $10,000. Too bad, believes ICBC – a deal is a deal.
Ms. Varesi’s discussions with ICBC continue for over a year. After having done some legal research, she informs ICBC that her case is actually worth more than $10,000. The adjuster then agrees to settle for $10,000, deciding that the case may become expensive to defend in the hands of the wrong lawyer. A second verbal agreement is made, but again Ms. Varesi backs out and says that there is no binding contract in place holding her to the settlement.
So what does the court think of such an oral-contract-gone-wrong? According to the judgment in this case, it comes down to a “contest of credibility.” But we don’t want it to get this far. Instead, we encourage you to live by one simple rule: keep all agreements in writing. In doing so, you’ll be sure to avoid any unwarranted questioning of your credibility and, more importantly, get the settlement you deserve.
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