If you’ve been involved in a personal injury accident—whether it’s the result of a car wreck or a slip and fall—don’t be surprised if the at-fault party’s insurance company contacts you to try and quickly settle the claim.
It may be tempting to accept a settlement early on, especially if the medical bills are starting to pile up. After all, you can get your money faster, right?
But remember that if you do accept an early settlement offer, you will need to sign a release of liability form before the insurance company sends you a check. Before signing a release, it’s always in your best interests to have a Carrollton personal injury lawyer evaluate your claim first.
In this article, we’ll explain what a release is and what you should consider before signing one too quickly.
What Exactly Is a Release of Liability?
A release, also sometimes called a waiver, is a legal document in which an individual agrees to give up certain rights in order to end a legal matter. It’s called a release because it does just that: it “releases” the responsible party and their insurer from any liability associated with the accident. A release is a legally binding contract.
Essentially, if you sign a release you give up the right to sue the at-fault party and their insurance company will be under no obligation to ever pay anything else to you. In return, you’ll receive a settlement check.
What You Should Know Before Signing a Release
Releases are permanent and once they are signed, your claim is over. We have seen countless instances where personal injury victims sign a release before considering the bigger picture.
When you receive the release from the at-fault party’s insurance company, do not sign it until you have considered the following issues.
Make Sure You Understand the Full Scope Of Your Damages
Do not sign anything until you have a chance to fully comprehend the scope of the damages associated with your accident.
Some damages are obvious and easy to calculate, like vehicle repair bills following a car accident. Other damages aren’t as easily apparent and are harder to put a price tag on.
Before you put pen to paper, make sure that you have the answer to the following questions:
- What sort of medical bills will you have and how long will you need treatment?
- Does the settlement cover lost wages?
- What about your pain and suffering or emotional anguish experienced as a result of the accident?
Remember that once you sign the release, it’s final and you can’t get anything else from the at-fault party or their insurance company. So, if you signed a release before your injuries fully manifested, you’ll be on the hook for future medical bills and lost wages when you have to seek additional treatment.
A good rule of thumb is this: at least wait until your doctor has informed you that your course of medical treatment is complete, or once your claim has been evaluated by an experienced Carrollton personal injury lawyer.
Meet With A Personal Injury Lawyer To Discuss Your Claim
Like we mentioned earlier, every accident victim who wishes to settle their case will be required to sign a release. However, the difference between an adequate settlement that covers your losses and one that’s worth minimal value depends on whether you have a personal injury lawyer review your claim and evaluate the insurance company’s offer before signing this document.
For example, let’s say you were in a car accident and you confirmed with your doctor and the mechanic that the insurance company’s settlement offer is enough to cover your repairs and medical bills.
But, you may have valid claims for other losses that you failed to consider, such as lost wages or pain and suffering. You won’t know for sure unless you have an attorney review the release and ask you the right questions about your case.
When you meet with a Carrollton personal injury lawyer, they’ll be able to determine the full extent of your losses and whether they can negotiate for a higher settlement amount.
Make Sure You Understand What Documents You’re Signing
Following an accident, you’ll be inundated with different forms to fill out and questions to answer. Legal documents can be intimidating and it can be confusing trying to determine which forms are required and which are optional.
Make no mistake, this is on purpose. Insurance companies are notorious for throwing in optional forms to trap you into giving up information that might harm your claim, like a medical record release.
A medical record release gives the insurance company access to all your medical history, even if it is unrelated to the injuries sustained in the accident. They might snoop through your medical records to prove your injuries were pre-existing in order to deny your claim.
It’s always advisable to seek legal counsel before signing anything that might give the insurance company certain rights. Not only will an experienced personal injury attorney be able to explain what these documents say, but they’ll be able to point out which legal rights you’ll be relinquishing by signing any of them.
To Sign or Not to Sign? Meet With a Carrollton Personal Injury Lawyer First
Releases are permanent, and once signed, your claim is closed no matter what circumstances may arise in the future.
For this reason, it’s always in your best interests to meet with a personal injury lawyer before signing any sort of legal document, especially releases of liability. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare can help you determine whether you’re receiving a fair settlement offer and if your rights would be adequately protected should you sign any legal documents.
Schedule an appointment or contact us today for a free case evaluation.