Swoop and Settle: Time for the Abuse of Our Injured to End
It has long been against the law for a lawyer to swoop in after an injury and use pressure tactics to gain new clients. If a lawyer or a representative of a law firm does so, and does not have a prior or existing relationship with the client, the lawyer can go to jail, lose his or her license to practice law, and face civil penalties. It is called barratry. Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for insurance companies. The practice called “swoop and settle” occurs in the aftermath of a significant injury. The insurance company will often swoop in, knowing that the injured person likely does not have an attorney and settle the claim for pennies on the dollar. All perfectly legal. In Texas, they can even do it completely over the phone. The insurance company’s adjuster will rattle off some legal jargon, get the injured person to say okay and it is done. No paperwork to review, no time to read, no time to ask questions all at a time after immediate injury when a person is likely to be medicated, is worried about immediate medical bills, and does not know what the future holds. It is an abusive practice the HB 1793, now pending in the Texas House of Representatives, seeks to modify.
While the bill does not prohibit swoop and settle, it does at least require the injured person to sign off on the wording of a release. The practice of allowing a telephone conversation to act as a release would be prohibited. It is high time. Injured persons deserve to be able to read a release they are agreeing to, digest it, and review it with counsel if they choose. It is time for common sense to prohibit the very same kind of abuse by insurance companies that would land a lawyer in jail.