The danger of signing a release shortly after an accident
For those injured in an accident and who receive compensation from an insurer, the insurer will require that you sign a release as a prerequisite for receiving compensation. Releases are fairly standard in terms of their language. Every release will include language indicating that in return for receiving a certain sum of money, the injured party releases the at fault party and their insurer from any and all claims, including any and all future claims.
The release will also state the injured party is releasing the at fault party and insurer from any claim for injuries or damages even if those injuries are unknown or may worsen over time.
What this means is:
Once you sign a release, the odds of you getting additional compensation thereafter is a virtual impossibility.
Many insurers try and get injured parties to settle their claims within days if not weeks of an accident. This is especially true in soft tissue cases. Insurers will often agree to provide nominal compensation for pain and suffering as well as medical bills. Hey, who couldn’t use $1500 after an accident? But you must understand the danger of signing that release shortly after an accident and while you are still in the recovery stage.
A cautionary tale:
I represented a young woman who was rear ended. The impact from behind was not severe. My client went to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with whiplash to the neck. The day after the accident, she started to experience low back pain. She then began seeing a chiropractor.
1 week after the accident
Eight days after the accident, an adjustor came to her home and offered to pay her a total of $600 for pain and suffering, $1500 for past medical bills and up to $3000 for medical bills she may incur in the 90 days after signing the release. She signed the release without contacting a lawyer.
1 month after the accident
A month later she was diagnosed as having a herniated disc in her low back. She has suffered greatly since and is contemplating surgery. I filed a lawsuit to try and get the release invalidated. The court did not find in our favor. For a paltry sum, this woman released a six-figure claim. She will go uncompensated for all she has endured and will endure in the future.
What is the lesson here?
NEVER sign a release while you are still feeling the effects of an accident. Always make sure your injuries are either completely resolved or have reached maximum medical improvement before even thinking about signing a release. Always contact an attorney experienced in personal injury litigation before signing the release.