A judge has allowed a case to keep going against a car insurance company, after the plaintiff’s lawyer, Stephen Conrad allegedly pocketed the settlement.

Prince William County Circuit Judge William D. Hamblen has allowed a plaintiff to re-open her personal injury claim involving a 2003 auto accident, which is the first one of Conrad’s original cases that has been permitted to continue against an insurance company.  Nicole Andrews, who is now 22, had sustained facial fractures and was left with scars, according to her attorney. 

Nicole’s parents had hired Conrad to represent the case.  Supposedly, he settled two claims totaling $80,000, but never informed his client.  Instead he held on to the money, which allegedly wasn’t the first time Conrad had done that.  He was accused of settling cases without telling his clients and then stealing their money.  It is believed that he stole from more than 250 clients.

In 2007, Conrad was disbarred and in 2008, he pleaded guilty to fraud after he allegedly stole almost $4 million in settlements similar to Nicole’s case.  He is now in federal prison, serving an 11-year sentence.

Judges have continued to reject plaintiffs’ attempts to re-open their claims, stating that insurance companies reasonably relied on Conrad’s authority to negotiate claims for his clients.  Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush had said that the insurance company shouldn’t be responsible for the loss, since the client was the one who “accredited” Conrad by hiring him.

Judge Hamblen cited a Supreme Court of Virginia decision from 1926 that “the apparent authority must be the product of a belief that is ‘traceable to the principal’s manifestations.’” What does that mean?  Basically, Judge Hamblen was saying that there must be some action by the client that would show that he or she relied on the lawyer’s apparent authority.

Conrad was a dishonest lawyer and there are others out there.  That is why consumers must be educated about the lawyer hiring process. It’s also why I wrote the book, The Truth About Lawyer Advertising.
Ben Glass
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Ben Glass is a nationally recognized Virginia injury, medical malpractice, and long-term disability attorney
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