Thrilled about getting a quick settlement check from the insurance company?
Some insurance companies make the claims process as difficult as possible and may continually challenge the cost and damages to the injured parties. However, others will quickly offer what may seem like a good settlement, but actually may have long-term effects to your injuries and recovery.
Rather than endure the seemingly endless challenges from the insurance company, many injured parties are ready, even relieved, to get a quick check. Signing the agreement – often called a release agreement or waiver agreement – to get a settlement check may seem like a good idea. The injured parties get compensation and no longer have to deal with additional paperwork or haggling with insurance agents to get the funds they need for their medical and other expenses. Unfortunately, the relief that the check provides for the physical, mental, and emotional strain of the accident is often brief, and that signature can often cause untold harm in the long run.
What Is a Release Agreement?
In general, a release agreement is a legally binding document stating you agree not to sue certain people or companies over a particular incident. If you sign this release after your accident, you essentially agree to the settlement offered, which may block you from collecting future funds you may need for your injuries. If your injuries cause long-term damage, you could be left fending for yourself long after that quick check has been spent. The cost to you can be even more devastating if you’re unable to work and/or need ongoing medical care.
If you sign this agreement from the insurance company or the party who caused your accident, it often relinquishes future opportunities to pursue further remedies or compensation from the other party or the insurance companies involved – including your own. The compensation offered is often far less than you’d obtain if you took legal action against the other person. However, taking the case to court can be time-consuming so many individuals settle for less to get immediate cash in hand and put the whole incident behind them. Insurance companies are often motivated to resolve the issue quickly before further expenses are incurred or discovered.
Be aware that once an agreement is signed, your legal options to recover the rightful compensation for your injuries could essentially be forfeit. Any unexpected expenses related to your accident are now yours to cover. Even when new evidence surfaces in your case, your original agreement with the insurer and/or the person at fault may be in effect in perpetuity – otherwise, forever. These strings are often presented in such a way that they may seem to your advantage. A little caution and knowing the following steps can help you avoid potential pitfalls.
You’ve Been Presented with a Release Agreement, Now What?
Though insurance companies have a bad reputation for trying to cheat injured patients, this doesn’t mean you should never sign a Release and Waiver form. Before doing so, you should consider the following:
- Read the Agreement
Never sign anything you don’t understand. If it’s not in writing, it doesn’t count so don’t trust that what is explained verbally will be included in the agreement. It’s always best to get a legal opinion that serves your interests if you’re uncertain about what the agreement means.
- Get Comprehensive Medical Care
If you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury from an auto accident, dog bite, slip and fall, or pedestrian collision that requires long-term care, you should understand that comprehensive medical care may be needed. Even when your injury isn’t catastrophic, understanding the extent of your injuries can help you determine what the actual costs will be. The effects of your injuries may not be apparent at first, and surface months or even years after the incident. A full medical exam can help you understand any chronic or long-term impacts you may experience so that you can claim the compensation you need and deserve.
- Talk to Your Insurance Agency
Signing a release agreement may also prevent your own insurance from recovering from the other party or insurance company. As a result, your insurance company may deny your claim if they’re unable to recover from the other party or his/her insurance company. Talking with your insurance representative may help determine whether the agreement forfeits either yours or your insurance company’s ability to recover.
- Get Legal HelpIs the insurance agency offering far less than fair compensation, stalling or refusing to cover expenses until you sign a waiver? Maybe you just aren’t sure if signing the agreement is a good idea. An experienced personal injury attorney can help assess the agreement and fight on your behalf to help you receive the compensation that you’re due.
Waiver and release agreements are common, and can easily slip into the paperwork accompanying your settlement check. Having a personal injury attorney can help get the appropriate compensation deserved for your loss and damages. Carefully reading the document, understanding the nature of your injuries, and seeking legal help when needed can significantly change your outcome.