Have you ever heard of a claim release form before? If not, then you may not understand why signing such a document after an accident is a big deal. Slow down and educate yourself before signing anything related to your accident. A claim release form is a binding legal document. For that reason, you should always have a lawyer carefully review it first. Otherwise, you as the car accident victim could receive far less in a cash settlement than you may deserve.
If an insurance company is pressuring you to sign a claim release form, you’re not alone. In fact, one of our readers recently wrote in regards to this situation.
Reader question: “A drunk driver hit me while I was standing outside my parked car in front of a friend’s house. Now, the insurance company is offering $25,000 for my injuries. That’s not enough money to cover my hospital bills. What happens if I don’t accept this money? And can I accept the $25,000 but then sue the driver later for more money once I get a lawyer? Asking because they want me to sign a car accident claim release form before they’ll cut the $25,000 check. Thank you!”
Answer: Stop. Talk with an auto accident attorney before you sign anything. Once you sign the claim release form, legally, you cannot sue the driver or their insurance company for another penny related to your injury accident. Not EVER.
What is a Claim Release Form?
A waiver or claim release form, according to eforms.com, is a “document that has the specific purpose of releasing both parties in an accident from legal responsibility.” Read that sentence again. It says that in effect, the document they want you to sign is the same thing as a settlement agreement.
For the party at fault for your injuries, you signing this form is a priority. Why? Because once everyone involved signs it, the person who caused the accident is no longer liable for damages or injuries. It is a normal thing for someone to refuse to sign. When a car crash involves multiple cars, for instance, cases usually must settle through the court system. This is due to the the added complexity involving different drivers that may share some portion of responsibility.
Do not feel pressure or guilt if you don’t want to sign. Avoid saying incriminating information that may be used against you by the guilty party.
Keep in mind that if you DO sign a claim release form after an accident, you are “required to give up all known and unknown claims against the other party.” Therefore, use caution. For example: Let’s say your neck begins to hurt in the weeks following your accident. If you already signed a claim release form, then you cannot sue the person who hit you for further losses.
There is No Reason to Rush
According to the auto insurance company US Agencies, you do not need to hurry to sign a release of liability (i.e., claim release form). Don’t put a lot of stock in what the other party’s insurance adjuster (or even your own) says. Insurance companies make it their goal to get claim release form signatures quickly. This because known losses are generally low immediately after an accident.
In the hours or days after a wreck, the total damages often look like how much it costs to fix your vehicle. The full damage of the accident isn’t always obvious right away. That’s particularly true when it comes to back or neck injuries. The dollar amount required to repair your vehicle is low compared to possible medical bills or financial compensation for lost work days.
You should NOT talk to insurance – or sign anything – until after you consult a lawyer for free.
In the question above, we see a clear case where an attorney would help since the person was not driving. Since the at-fault driver was intoxicated, the law heavily favors you, the injured party. Insurers often make hasty, low-ball offers dependent on injured victims signing a claim release form. If you’re hurt in a car accident, then you may qualify for a cash settlement that covers:
- Pain and suffering*
- Medical bills
- Auto repair costs
*This is a monetary payment for an expense that doesn’t come with a clear receipt or accounting statement. Attorneys use a standard formula to calculate how much money your pain and suffering is worth.
Beyond just lost productive workdays, this kind of payment can compensate accident victims for mental health struggles, PTSD symptoms, or relationship problems. Because these stressors are impossible to really measure, it’s wise to talk them over with an experienced auto accident attorney. Lawyers can help ensure you receive the proper level of compensation for your injuries.
To cover all your bases in the wake of a car crash injury, be sure to review this accident checklist. Among other items, it reminds you to:
- Talk with an attorney as soon as possible.
- Write out everything that happened as quickly as you can while it’s still fresh in your mind.
- File a police report, even if it’s just a fender bender.
- Document any medical treatment you receive on the scene or immediately afterwards.
- Obtain a property damage assessment for any necessary vehicle repairs.
Talk to an Attorney Today about Your Claim Release Form
Don’t hesitate to reach out to an attorney in our network who specializes in situations like yours. An attorney can review the details of your accident (including the forms or agreements an insurer wants you to sign) free of charge. Click the button below to get started on your free consultation:
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Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.