Don’t Sign Any Releases After An Accident

You should never sign a release without having it reviewed by your attorney. Once you sign a release for your car accident case, it is over. You cannot open your case again, ever. If you sign a release during your case that is for the damage to your car, make sure it states for property damage only. It's recommended to have your attorney look at it before you sign it. Let me give you an example of the devastating effects that signing a release too early and without knowing all the details can have on your case.

Related: More Tip For Settling Your Property Damage Claim
The effects of signing a release
Marie came in to my office several years ago. She had been to an orthopedic surgeon who had told her that she would need back surgery. She needed to have a surgical fusion performed on two discs in her neck to relieve pain in that area and her shoulders that had become unbearable. After we discussed her medical condition and recommended procedures, we had a discussion as to what had caused her pain. Marie told me that she had been in an auto accident a year and a half prior. She was rear ended while she was stopped at a traffic light. There was less than a thousand dollars of property damage to Marie’s car. She did not feel any pain immediately following the accident. She woke up the next morning and her neck was a little stiff, but she didn’t think much about it. She figured it was one of those things that would go away.

When the insurance company came out to take a look at the damage to Marie’s car, the adjuster looked at the damage and gave her a check for $833 on the spot. The adjuster also asked Marie if she was hurt. She told him that her neck hurt a little, but she thought it would go away. The insurance adjuster then offered Marie $1,000 for her pain and suffering. Marie needed the money, so she agreed. She signed some papers and got a check. Now, she was in my office wanting to sue the driver that hit her and asked me what we could do about her neck surgery.

Related: Is The Insurance Company Really My Friend?

The conclusion
Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do for Marie. The papers she signed were a release. It said for $1,000 she was releasing the driver and the insurance company from any responsibility for the accident. Once this was done, Marie could never get another dime from them. Her case could not be opened up again. Marie did not get a fair and just settlement.

That is why it's so important to understand what you are signing. You should always read the paperwork, and if there is something you don't understand, ask someone. Also, you should never feel like you have to sign something right away. The insurance adjuster or other party may make you feel that way, but it's not true. You take a day or two to read over the paperwork and consult with a personal injury attorney to find out what your rights are for your case.

Michael Schafer
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The Personal Injury Attorney for Louisville and Kentucky