Posted on: 27 October 2016
Once you have agreed to settle your car accident claim, the responsible insurance company will ask you to sign a release or waiver of liability form. In simple terms, signing this form means you have been compensated for your damages and have waived your rights to any future lawsuits arising out of the accident. This is a serious waiver, and you shouldn't sign it unless your situation satisfies these three conditions:
Your Damages are Clear and Accounted For
You should only waive your rights to future lawsuits if you know the extent of your injuries and damages. For if you don't know how much you were injured or how much your car was damaged, how can you tell that the compensation is adequate?
You can only know the extent of your injuries if you have been diagnosed, treated, and reached your point of maximum improvement. For example, if one of your limbs was paralyzed, you ought to know the extent of the paralysis, get it treated, and reach a point where your doctor isn't foreseeing any more improvement. For car damages, an evaluation and repair from a professional mechanic will suffice.
Your Settlement Marginally Exceeds the Damages
It may also make sense to sign a release form if the settlement you have received marginally exceeds your damages. This is because you never know if you'll need one more drug or a further consultation session for your injuries. What if, a short while after your doctor claims you have reached your point of maximum improvement, the prognosis changes and the doctor thinks you can benefit from one more procedure or treatment session?
For this reason, your settlement shouldn't be exact; for example, if your damages are worth $345,000, don't settle for that exact amount. This is why you shouldn't also quote what you expect to get at the beginning of the negotiations. Start a little bit higher so that you can settle for something slightly above your exact damages.
You Understand and Accept the Terms of the Release Form
Lastly, you shouldn't sign the release forms if you don't understand its legal language or what it means for your situation. This advice is valid even if you understand the scope of your damages and you feel you have been fully compensated for them. For example, the insurance company might include language that excludes you from enjoying further medical benefits or from making any further claim against the defendant.
Ultimately, you can benefit from your lawyer's input when deciding whether to sign a release form. Even if you managed to negotiate your claim without a lawyer, you should consult a personal injury or car accident attorney now and have them scrutinize the language of your release form. The lawyer may also analyze your settlement and advise you on whether to sign the waiver of liability.Share