Continue reading for answers to your concerns regarding signing under duress and contesting a contract you did not freely sign.

What you’ll discover:

Is it possible to compel me to sign a contract?
What does “signing a contract under duress” mean?
What exactly is undue influence?
How can I get out of a contract that I signed under duress or with undue influence?
Check that your contracts are legitimate and suit your interests.

A legitimate contract is a legally binding agreement entered into by two or more mentally competent people. When you sign a contract, you are confirming that you understand and accept the conditions, whether they entail an exchange or an agreement to perform (or not do) anything. Yet, being coerced, pressed, or duped into signing a contract violates the entire premise of contract law.

Yet, individuals sometimes sign contracts under duress or owing to improper influence or force. All of these legal words allude to problematic techniques that may render a contract void. Continue reading for answers to your concerns regarding signing under duress and contesting a contract you did not freely sign.

Is it possible to compel me to sign a contract?

Someone may compel you to sign a contract, but the key issue is whether that contract is legally binding. If you believe you were coerced into signing a contract, you might take measures to substantiate your case and have the contract voided.

But first, it’s critical to grasp what it means to be legally “forced” to sign a contract. It is your responsibility if you did not carefully read the contract or subsequently recognized that you did not fully grasp its provisions. If you were given a hard sell and aggressively pushed to sign, but all of the ingredients of a legitimate contract were there, that would most likely not be called “undue pressure.”

But, if you feel pressured or compelled to sign a contract because the other party had influence over you, threatened you if you didn’t, or you were somehow reliant on them and thought you needed to sign the agreement because of that reliance, then there may be some coercion involved.

What does “signing a contract under duress” mean?

When you are forced to sign a contract under duress, also known as coercion, you are doing it against your will. In severe circumstances, a party may threaten you with physical assault or even death if you do not sign. Duress may also include psychological coercion or misinformation about what would happen if you do not sign. Telling someone, “If you don’t accept these conditions, you’ll suffer financial disaster,” is one example of coercion.

Duress may be used to force another individual to sign a contract in a variety of ways, including:

Violence is being threatened.
Personal liberty is under threat.
Extreme economic strain.
Unfairness or ill faith in the negotiation process or terms.
Fraud or misrepresentation.
Nondisclosure of information relevant to the contract.
Words that are unsatisfactory.

The key to assessing whether there was duress is to consider how the claimed victim’s capacity to make an educated choice was impacted by the conduct. This is a subjective judgement by definition. As a legal issue, whether or not there was duress may not simply rely on whether or not a “reasonable person” would have felt unreasonably pushed. It is determined by the circumstances of the case as well as the unique connection between the parties concerned.

Duress may occur at any point prior to the contract’s execution. Carol’s approach to the negotiation process, for example, may be called bad faith if Carol understood that a subtle threat to Terry’s social position would compel Terry to sign something she would otherwise refuse.

What exactly is undue influence?

Undue influence in contract signing is considerably more subtle than force or pressure and uses persuasion, much like a scam artist. When assessing undue influence, courts often evaluate the dynamics of the connection as well as patterns of conduct, rather than simply one or a few isolated behaviors.

The typical example of undue influence is someone becoming close to an elderly person, maybe developing a strong bond or promoting reliance, such as by moving in with the elderly person and giving hospice care. The individual may suggest that they want financial support in order to persuade the elderly person to identify them as an heir.

Generally, surviving relatives seeking to have such a will declared void would allege that the dead individual signed the will under duress. When the legality of a contract is challenged on such grounds, courts will often examine the following factors:

The susceptibility of the victim. The victim’s age, mental capability, isolation from others, degree of reliance, and whether the person accused of undue influence knew or should have known about the victim’s vulnerability will all be considered by the courts.
The influencing individual’s authority. The victim’s position as a family member, fiduciary, priest, care provider, or legal consultant may assist decide if that individual had adequate chance to influence him or her.
Actions or techniques used. Did the influencing person have control over drugs or other requirements of life, utilize affection or intimidation, or modify property rights at inopportune times?
Actions have consequences. What was the outcome of the influencing person’s activities, and how far did it deviate from the victim’s initial intentions? Is it acceptable given the circumstances?

How can I get out of a contract that I signed under duress or with undue influence?

If you feel you were coerced into signing a contract that was not in your best interests, you may seek to have it declared void. Yet, it is presumed to be legitimate unless proven otherwise. For example, if you’re sued for violating the terms of the contract, you may claim that you signed it under duress or undue influence. If you are engaged in a contract dispute of this sort, you should consult with an attorney.

If you claim duress, you may need to demonstrate that you accepted the contract’s terms principally as a result of a threat. Even if the other party did not intend to carry out the threat, it may be deemed duress if it influenced you to sign.

As previously stated, courts often evaluate the existence of undue influence based on connections, tactics, and other less obvious circumstances before the signature.

Check that your contracts are legitimate and suit your interests.

Whichever side you’re on, the finest contracts include an exchange of products or services that benefit all parties. Forcing (or coercing) someone to sign a contract, whether by duress or undue influence, may generate issues for everyone concerned.

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