Officials for ITC have gone to great lengths to downplay the true severity of the fire and smoke plume. These attempts to mislead the public are an indication of what’s to come. ITC is in damage control mode as we speak. Toxicologists have come out stating they believe the public is being misled.
The bottom line is that ITC is not here to help you. They are here to make sure they pay you the least amount possible. They are out for the best interest of themselves—not you or everyone else who has been injured as a result of their actions.
ITC is also asking everyone who has been injured or suffered losses stemming from the Deer Park fire to sign a Claim form and participate in its recently-announced compensation program.
Unsurprisingly, on page 5, under section 4, it specifically states “NO PAYMENT WILL BE MADE BY OR ON BEHALF OF ITC WITHOUT THE CLAIMANT EXECUTING A RELEASE OF ALL CLAIMS AGAINST ITC AND ITS UNDERWRITERS”
This means, if ITC agrees to pay you for your medical bills incurred thus far OR offer to give you $1000.00, you would be waiving your rights to sue ITC later if serious injuries are discovered. By accepting any monetary compensation, even just $1, you will be permanently barred from recovering from ITC in the future.
While you may be able to receive some compensation going this route, you should never sign anything without first consulting with an attorney.
HOW CAN FILING A CLAIM WITH ITC HARM ME?
Much like any injury case, releases are drafted by attorneys. Filing a claim for and signing a release from ITC will bar you from ever bringing another claim for the accident in which you were injured. The settlement and release will contain language that will prevent you from receiving any further compensation in the future even if you later discover you have additional injuries. The language will further state that, by signing the document, you waive all rights to file another legal claim against the at-fault party in relation to this incident. You are agreeing that the money you receive satisfies the respective claim and any other claims you might want to bring at a later time. Simply put, there are no second chances after signing a release. This means the case is over and you cannot come back later and make additional or even different claims arising out of the same incident.
This can be very troubling for a lot of reasons. Most people injured from the ITC Deer Park Fire do not have the experience to negotiate with ITC or their attorneys. Besides, they have all the power—they control the money and how much you get compensated if you do not have an attorney representing you. Bottom line is, ITC’s offer may seem generous at first, but in the grand scheme of it all, they are significantly low-balling you if you are not represented by an attorney. In cases without an attorney, ITC will not come close to fully compensating you for your injuries if you are not represented by an attorney. An experienced attorney will guide you through this process.
Here are more reasons why you should never sign a settlement and release without an attorney:
YOU MAY NOT BE FINISHED TREATING
The ultimate goal for you as an injured person is to get better emotionally, physically, and financially. ITC may try and settle your claims early so they do not have to pay for your injury expenses down the road. You want to make sure that you are fully finished treating before you submit a claim to ITC in order for you to be fully compensated. ITC should pay for the costs of your treatment. Therefore, you want to make sure that they pay for all the costs of your treatment.
YOUR INJURIES MAY GET WORSE
This is an issue we encounter routinely. A potential client calls our office and tells us he or she was injured, settled with the insurance company, and then their injuries took a vast turn for the worst. The extent of injury from the toxic chemical exposure from the ITC Deer Park fire are unknown. There is no way we can predict the long term effects. You do not want to be in a position where you settle with ITC and then cannot bring a claim later for worse injuries caused by the same accident. An attorney who represents injured victims should go through an entire diagnostic process with you and help you get the treatment you need.