Personal injury lawyers throughout Rhode Island should know about a recent RI Supreme Court ethics opinion that will affect their future settlement agreements. At the Bottaro Law Firm, LLC, we represent personal injury claimants, and so in today’s blog, let’s analyze what this opinion means:
The Issue: May Insurance Carriers Force Personal Injury Lawyers To Sign A “Hold Harmless” Agreement During A Settlement?
In Ethics Advisory Panel Op. 2022-01, a plaintiff personal injury lawyer asked essentially the above question. This came when the parties had reached a settlement, but a large auto insurance company attempted to require the injured party and their lawyer to sign such a contract.
RI Supreme Court Advises That “Hold Harmless” Agreements May Not Be Forced By Insurance Companies On Personal Injury Lawyers.
The Court issued an opinion stating, “No. Such a condition precedent violates Rules 1.8, 1.7, and 8.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.”
What Does The Rhode Island Supreme Court’s Ethics Opinion Mean?
This opinion provides much needed clarity. Forcing plaintiff’s counsel to indemnify and hold harmless these big insurers from all “known and unknown” claims has long been found to be unethical on the above ground sin many other states.
Because we did not previously have a Rhode Island decision on this topic, big insurance companies like GEICO would force lawyers to sign restrictive, unethical agreements or else risk holding up their clients’ settlement money.
The Court has now rightly addressed this issue and relied on the reasoning of many other state court decisions on this topic. With this decision, the Court has dealt a blow to this unethical business practice.
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