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What is Estoppel?

Although it’s a mouthful to say, estoppel actually refers to some straightforward ideas that assist in maintaining the integrity of the legal system.

Estoppel is the legal principle that states you are required to be consistent across all of your claims or court cases that are related to a single subject. It is not possible, for instance, to assert in one legal proceeding that you own a parcel of land and then assert in another legal proceeding that you do not.

In a similar vein, estoppel prevents you from re-arguing the same facts over and over again in different cases. The word “estoppel” can be applied in a variety of contexts. In the end, its purpose is to assist all parties involved in a lawsuit in having a trial that is fair and equitable.

What Are the Different Types of Estoppel?

In the vast majority of lawsuits and other legal matters, there are four primary types of estoppel:

  • Promissory estoppel, which mainly applies to contract law.
  • Collateral estoppel, which prohibits multiple lawsuits for the same complaint.
  • Estoppel by deed, which prevents a person from stating the truth about a deed.
  • Equitable estoppel, which prevents inconsistency in legal positions.

Almost all states and nations in the world have laws governing estoppel. These types of estoppel may go by different names in different jurisdictions, but their fundamental ideas almost always stay the same.

What Does Estoppel Look Like in a Personal Injury Case?

Say a drunk driver is to blame for a collision. The drunk driver’s passenger and the victim in the car that was hit both suffered injuries in the collision. A drunk driving lawsuit would be filed by both parties against the driver.

If this claim was to go to court, the drunk driver could argue these two arguments to get out of paying:

Against the Person in the Other Car: The intoxicated driver might assert that they hadn’t consumed any alcohol. They claim to have been sober and that the other driver was to blame for the collision.

Against Their Own Passenger: The intoxicated driver acknowledges drinking. They claim the passenger knew they were intoxicated because they had been to the bar together. The drunk driver can claim that the passenger is at least partially to blame for their injuries because it was reckless of them to ride with a drunk driver.

These two defenses clearly don’t work together. The truth is that the driver couldn’t have it both ways; either they had been drinking, or they hadn’t. The driver will be unable to make either of these claims due to the doctrine of estoppel and must choose which version of events will be their defense.

How is Estoppel Implemented?

The legal system will enforce it. Typically, one party in a lawsuit will identify the inconsistency and request that the court declares it “estopped.” If the court deems a particular line of reasoning to be estopped, it is no longer admissible in court for that case. For instance, in the above case involving drunk driving, the injured party could simply point out that the driver admitted to being intoxicated earlier. The court could then reject the claim of sobriety.

Can Estoppel Be Useful in My Case?

It most certainly can. Estoppel does not only benefit the plaintiff. Estoppel serves your interests as well as those of your personal injury attorney. These guidelines must be followed by both the defense and the insurance providers. This makes sure that everything is resolved on an even playing field and prevents people from trying to outdo one another by fabricating lies that are unsupported by the actual facts of the case.

Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at The Brown Firm

If you were involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, make sure you contact a personal injury attorney to assist with your case. Your attorney will make sure your case is filed correctly with all of the required information, giving you the best chance to receive maximum compensation for your losses. 

The Brown Firm offers free consultations to accident victims in Georgia and South Carolina. Call 800-529-1441 to schedule a free consultation with an expert lawyer today.

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