Personal Injury Lawyers » How a Release Works
The Legal Ramifications of Signing a Release
In every personal injury case that we settle, our clients will eventually sign a release that will release the defendant from any future financial obligations. When properly evaluated and endorsed by your attorney, signing a release is a fairly innocuous event that should signify the conclusion to your former legal troubles.
However, for those that are not represented by an attorney, signing a release can, in fact, be the beginning of their legal troubles. In this article, we explain precisely what a release is, consequences of signing, and common concerns that must be taken into consideration before signing a release.
Dangers of Signing a Release
There are several concerns that must be addressed prior to signing a release and those who are not represented by a competent attorney can fall victim to these pitfalls.
1) Is The Release Equitable and Sufficient to Cover Your Costs?
When you sign a release, you are forever relinquishing your right to sue the defendant regarding this claim. Before making this exchange you should talk to an attorney to make sure it is a good idea to release the defendant from all future liability regarding this claim and that the settlement amount is enough to compensate you for your damages.
We have had clients who signed a release believing that it was equitable and sufficient to compensate them for their injuries. However, it was revealed that the injuries were worse than they appeared at first and that more money would be needed for future medical expenses, but since the client signed the release they were not able to get compensation for these new injuries.
2) Who is Released?
Many times especially when dealing with insurance companies, an unrepresented client will be told that by signing a release they are only releasing some of the parties who are covered by the insurance policy from a liability and that they can still sue others beyond the limits of the policy.
In reality, it is not always the case and by singing a release you give uprights. For instance, we had a client whose husband was killed in a car accident and the defendant only had insurance coverage for $25,000. However, the man was also independently wealthy. The woman settled and signed a release with the insurance company thinking that she was only releasing the insurance company but not the defendant. But when she attempted to file suit against the defendant individually she discovered that the release she had signed not only released the insurance company but also the defendant.
3) Strategic Concerns
There are also some strategic concerns that must be addressed before signing a release. Imagine a pizza delivery crashes into your car. You settle with the delivery driver through his personal insurance policy and the release does not bar you from filing suit against anyone else. However, in order to prove liability on the other parties involved you need testimony from the pizza delivery boy. But, since he is released from the suit, he is not required to testify in the case. Generally, it is in our client’s best interest not to settle immediately because of the blowback it can have on the big picture.
There are many other concerns with signing a release, but one important thing you need to understand is that releases are written to protect the defendant, not you, and unless you have a clear understanding of contract law, you are not going to completely understand it. That is where a lawyer comes in because signing a release is not a bad thing, as long as it is fair for both parties.
You Should Consult With an Experienced Attorney Before Signing a Release
Although it is usually alright to hear a settlement offer from an insurance company it is not a good idea to sign a release before you have consulted with an attorney. For example, imagine you are in a car accident and offered a settlement that seems fair to you so you sign a release. Then, two weeks later, you discover that you are going to need surgery; at this point, it is unlikely that you will be able to receive compensation for these new injuries.
However, the attorneys at Our Law Offices have been able to secure compensation for new injuries after the signing of a release. They were able to do this because they have over twenty years’ experience and know the ins and outs of dealing with insurance companies and getting their clients the compensation that they deserve. Before you decide to sign a release you should call one of our attorneys for a free consultation.