Should I Sign a Release of All Claims Form?
If you have a pen in hand paused over the signature box on a “release of all claims” form, do not sign it. You might end up signing it eventually if you decide that you’d rather have a little bit of money now than a lot of money later. Since it costs you nothing to consult with our New York City car accident lawyers to ensure you’re getting a fair offer from the car insurance company, it behooves you to call Douglas and London first.
What’s Wrong with Signing A Release of All Claims Form?
Insurance companies require car accident victims to sign a release form before issuing a paper check that covers medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. So, if you’re watching the bills pile up after an accident, you may feel pressured to sign the form to get the money that is entitled to you.
However, the true purpose of a “release of all claims” form is to release the insurance companies and the other motorist of any future liability. You essentially agree, “Yes, I concur with the settlement offer. No, I will not file a lawsuit or seek any additional compensation.”
Signing this statement could be problematic for several different reasons.
Five Reasons Why You Don’t Want to Sign A Release of All Claims Form After A Car Accident
1. The true nature of your injuries may not have manifest yet.
Insurers typically reach out to car accident victims within a day or two. Depending on your situation, they could arrive at an offer in less than a week. Some injuries may not emerge during this short window of time. It’s commonplace for people to walk away from an accident feeling sore, but generally “okay” — only to find that they are not okay a few weeks later.
Latent car accident injuries may include:
- Stomach pain caused by internal bleeding.
- Dizziness and headaches caused by a concussion, whiplash, or traumatic brain injury.
- Shoulder or neck pain caused by soft tissue injury.
- Back pain caused by a herniated disc, spinal cord damage, or a sprain.
- Numbness or tingling caused by nerve damage.
How can a claim be paid if you don’t know what you’re dealing with yet? See your doctor immediately, keep a diary of your symptoms, and give yourself time to see how you’re feeling before rushing to close the case.
2. Your injuries could worsen over time.
A car accident claim includes present medical expenses and lost wages, as well as future suffering and disability. Therefore, it is imperative that you understand what those future costs might be. Signing a release too early could prevent you from collecting insurance money for additional time off work, future surgeries and physical therapy, or even permanent disability.
Healing times vary greatly from person to person and can be difficult to predict. Serious injuries like broken bones, head injuries, spinal cord damage, soft tissue tears, and psychological trauma can worsen with time. You want to reach a point of “maximum recovery,” as evidenced by your attending physician before you sign a release on any future claims to compensation.
3. The settlement offer is less than what your claim is worth.
Insurance companies are businesses at their core. They wouldn’t turn a profit if they paid out millions of dollars for every accident that occurred. They know you are vulnerable right after the accident and feign that they care– to settle the matter quickly at the lowest possible cost. Do not fall for this trick!
Adjusters know you are entitled to refute their first offer, which is why they never offer maximum value the first time around. Customarily, they’ll offer 40 percent of what they actually think your case is worth, hoping you won’t bother to seek counsel and pursue matters further.
Sometimes the lowballing isn’t even intentional. Another reason insurers consistently churn out lowball offers is that they rely upon computers to do a lot of the grunt work for them. The trouble is– real people with real problems don’t always conform to the algorithm perfectly. There are unique and complex factors in your claim that a computer couldn’t possibly know or add to the estimation of damages.
4. You’re not 100% sure what happened.
A personal injury attorney can investigate what happened in the moments before the crash. If the other driver was drinking and driving or texting before the crash, you are likely to receive much more than the insurer is offering you by filing a lawsuit.
Or, say a commercial truck driver hit you. Signing the waiver would end the matter, but what if you could file a legal claim against the commercial truck driver’s employer for forcing the individual driver to put in more hours than what is allowed by law? What if there was another driver involved who caused the crash? Make sure you have all the facts so that you can base your decision on the complete picture.
5. Your car insurance may need to sue the other driver.
Subrogation is a rarely used concept under New York’s “no-fault” system, but it does happen on occasion. In a no-fault car accident state like New York, your own personal injury protection will pay for your medical expenses and lost wages up to your policy limits. Sometimes injuries are very severe, and policy limits aren’t enough to fully compensate you.
Your insurer could dip into additional funding using your underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage and use a subrogation provision in the policy to recover the difference directly from the other driver. However, if you have hastily signed a “release all claims” waiver, the funds could become unrecoverable from the other driver’s insurance company and your insurer could deny a claim for additional compensation.
Contact A Personal Injury Attorney Before Signing Your Rights Away With The Auto Insurance Company!
Douglas and London is a New York personal injury law firm with experience in auto accident litigation. We are happy to comb through the settlement offer and agreement or represent you even before the offer arrives. Our New York City personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, so there is never any upfront cost to you– and you only pay us if we secure compensation on your behalf. We will argue for maximum compensation and be your best advocate.