A release of liability, or more generally known as a “release,” is one of the most important documents involved when settling a car accident claim with an insurance company. Many though are quite unfamiliar with this document, and resultantly, poor settlements get made. The following takes a closer look at what a release actually is and what it means for your settlement. Two quick things a reader should learn are: (1) never rush into signing a release; and, (2) contact Phillips Law Firm if you have any questions before you sign a release.
What is a Release of Liability?
A release is basically an agreement a claimant makes with an insurance company when an automobile accident claim gets settled. While releases may vary in terms of length and specific provisions (depending on the facts of a case/accident), the main idea to a release is that a claimant agrees to drop, or end a claim, and an insurer, in turn, agrees to pay the claimant some money.
More specifically, releases generally include the following:
• An identification of all of the parties to a claim and the settlement (e.g., the injured motorist and the specific insurance company involved).
• A statement providing a description of the accident, including a statement that a claimant purports to have been injured as a result of the accident.
• The specific amount of money that the insurance company will pay the claimant.
• If applicable, a description of other entities the insurance company may pay on behalf of the claimant (e.g., healthcare providers).
• A statement whereby the claimant agrees, as a condition of the settlement, to release the insurance company from all liability for damages relating to the claimant’s injuries.
If a claimant is represented by a lawyer, claims adjusters usually allow the lawyer to draft the release. If a claimant settles a claim without a lawyer, the insurance adjuster typically prepares the release and sends it to the claimant to review and sign. If a lawyer is not involved in the settlement, it’s crucial for a claimant to actually review the release before signing it. Claimants do not have to agree to all of the terms within a release. If questions exist as to terms, or if disagreements exist, these should all be brought to the claim adjuster’s attention and matters should be further negotiated.
Releases are Final
It’s highly important for claimants to understand the terms of a release because a release is deemed final once signed. If a claimant does not accept a settlement offer, the claimant should never sign a release. Once a release is signed, there is typically very, very little chance of getting it nullified. Once again, review is crucial. Further, seeking the assistance of a personal injury attorney is of significant importance if questions arise.
Avoid Signing a Release Too Early
Know that claimants do not have to sign a release. They only sign a release if they choose to settle a claim with an insurance company…and are happy about the settlement. If a claimant does not agree as to a specific settlement offer, the claimant has the right to reject the offer and re-enter negotiations.
With this said, insurance adjusters sometimes try to have a claimant sign a release just days after an auto collision. Typically though, little information is known about a claimant’s damages in this short time. For example, a claimant may not have even visited a physician within a few days after an accident. There may be damage to the claimant’s automobile and repair estimates are still pending. In the end, claimants should not sign a release until they have all of the details on the damages they suffered from the accident.
As stated above, claimants should contact an experienced personal injury attorney if they have specific questions on a release, or even if they need assistance in negotiating a claim settlement. Please know that our firm is always here to help. Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys can start answering your questions today.