Attorney Ben Schwartz offers his opinion to a viewer on signing a general release after a car accident.
Today we are going to answer a question from a viewer in Kent County, Delaware. The viewer wrote-in and said, “After an auto accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is offering to settle my personal injury case, but they want me to sign a waiver stating that I can’t come back later to get more money. What happens if I need surgery in the future?”‘
If you are dealing with an insurance company and you’re about to settle a personal injury case from an automobile accident, or from any accident, slip-and-fall accident, or dog bite accident, what have you, the insurance company is not likely going to pay you money to settle the claim unless they’re getting something in response. What they want in response is called a general release from liability that says by taking this money you agree that you’re not going to come back later and make any further claims. You are giving up your right to sue. You’re giving up your right to make further claims in the future. The reason why they want that release is because they don’t want you to get money now, go have surgery, and come back and say well I need more money. I just had surgery, I’ve been to Hell and back with the surgery and now you’ve got to pay me for that too.
What they want to do is, if they’re going to settle a claim, they want you to sign a release and that’s the end of the story. You’re never going to come back for more. That’s what the insurance company wants. I think that you have to remember that’s not bad. The insurance company has an obligation to the at-fault driver or whoever they’re insuring to do what’s best for them. I don’t think people realize that when you’re dealing with an insurance company in a personal injury case, you’re not dealing with some friendly insurance adjuster. You’re dealing with an adverse party who’s looking out for someone else’s best interests, not for yours. So yeah, the answer to the question is, they’re going to want you to sign a release. Once you sign that general release, I’d have to look at the actual document itself to give you actual legal advice, but once you sign a general release in a personal injury case, you are barred from coming back and getting more money later. My advice would be before you sign anything, I understand you are trying to deal with an insurance company, you think you have the claim settled, you are not looking to go to a lawyer, but lawyers in personal injury cases offer free consultations.
So if you are about to settle a case, you have documents, you are looking at a general release or other documents, and you are not an attorney, why would you not get a free consultation? Go get a lawyer who handles these types of things to look over these documents and give you advice about the effect of signing that document. Then you can really find out if it will bar you from ever coming back again. You can really find out what steps you can take to make sure your future surgery bills are covered. If you think there is a likelihood that you are going to have surgery in the future, you could include the money for that surgery in the settlement you receive now. That way when you get down the road and need another surgery, you would have gotten it as part of the settlement of your claim.
My advice to you is, go to an attorney. Personal injury attorneys in every state in the United States offer free consultations to people that have been injured in accidents. My advice to you is to call an attorney and get your free consultation. Take the paperwork with you before you sign it before you send it back to the insurance company. Get it all reviewed by an attorney and the attorney can give you proper legal advice.
I’m attorney Ben Schwartz, I hope that more-or-less answered that question. Basically, the bottom line is, if you are dealing with an insurance company on your own before you sign any piece of paper and send it back, you need to have a lawyer look it over. Your lawyer, not the insurance company’s lawyer, because the insurance company that wants you to sign a document may not be looking out for your best interest. They may be looking out for the best interest of somebody else, or they may be looking out for the best interest of themselves. I’m attorney Ben Schwartz, if you have a question about personal injury lawsuits, litigation claims, etc., send me an email below. Hopefully, it is something I can answer in video format like this. Not only will you get an answer to your question and learn more about your rights, but other people in the community watching these videos will learn more about their rights as well. Thanks for watching!