When it comes to personal injury cases, the injured party often feels confused and pressured, unsure of just what to believe or who to trust. The biggest concern with many people revolves around the release, otherwise known as the Release of All Claims form. In the end, only you can really answer that for yourself, but it helps to understand just what that signifies in regard to your own situation.
What Is A Release And When Should I Sign It?
As many personal injury lawyers will attest, insurance companies are only out to protect their bottom line and that means they won’t always have your best interests at heart. You may find that the insurance company is pressuring you to sign a release, but doing so may leave you without adequate compensation for your injuries and no legal recourse.
A release of all claims is a part of a settlement agreement and, as the name suggests, it settles the case. This means the parties involved have dismissed their claims and have resolved their differences, releasing all parties from future liability claims. In essence, it waives your rights to future litigation.
The release should be read very carefully to ensure it contains all relevant information, including details of the incident, your claims for damages (injuries, vehicle damage, and property damage), and a list of everyone involved. It will also state the payment to be made and the law(s) governing the incident.
Because the release makes all claims final and settled, it’s recommended that you wait until you’re fully recovered from injuries to sign the form. Even if you choose not to consult a personal injury attorney first, it’s essential that you ensure all of your damages will be covered by the settlement. Once it has been signed, there’s no going back.
There are three important aspects to a settlement agreement with which you should be familiar, before signing.
A release of obligation to pay
This means that, by signing the document, you understand that no additional payments will be made in the future. Even if there’s a relapse or complication with your injuries later, you will have no right to further compensation.
Waiving the right to sue
You give up your right to sue over the incident. This protects the insurance company, but also protects the other parties involved in the accident from future litigation.
Release of blame
This simply recognizes that all parties have settled the issue without placing blame or admitting guilt.
Collecting Your Settlement
Once the settlement has been signed, most people want to know how long it will take to get their money. Before anything can happen, your personal injury lawyer will report that a settlement has been reached in the case. From there, the courts will process the documents and issue an order of settlement. During this process, both sides will have between 30 and 60 days to complete all of the assigned settlement papers.
Next, your lawyer will have to determine if there are any liens against your settlement. This means medical bills will have to be paid off first, including anything owed to Medicaid or Medicare. Once owed funds have been disbursed, you will receive the remaining balance.
In some cases, a settlement isn’t reached and the parties do go to court. This takes a longer route to a final decision. Even if you win your case, the defendant can appeal the decision, which launches a one to two year process.
When your case does finally reach the appellate court, your win may be upheld or reversed. In some cases, the appellate court will return the case back to the court of origin for a new trial.
If at all possible, it’s better to try to settle the case before trial before both parties. It saves money, but it also saves time and much frustration for both parties.