After a Los Angeles personal injury incident that is clearly the fault of another person, that other person’s insurance company may approach you and offer to immediately pay you a certain amount of compensation for your injuries. In return, the insurance company hands you a piece of paper it describes as a “release” and asks that you sign it.
Although releases are standard documents used whenever a civil lawsuit or potential lawsuit is settled, it may not always be in your best interest to sign such a form right away. Some of the things you may want to consider before signing a release include:
- What type of release is being presented to me? There are two main types of releases used by insurance companies: Medical releases and releases of liability.
- Medical releases allow the insurance company to contact your medical providers and obtain access to your medical records. Insurance companies will typically request these releases so they can analyze the care you have been receiving and challenge what they may perceive to be unnecessary treatment. Although an insurance adjustor may attempt to persuade you that a medical release must be signed before you can receive compensation for your injuries, there is no law requiring this.
- The second type of release is known as a “release of liability” (it may be called something slightly different depending on the insurance company). If you were to sign this document, you would be giving up any right you may have to pursue a claim in court against the insurance company and/or its insured. This document is meant to protect the insurance company and its insured from a victim who obtains a settlement from the insurance company and then attempts to bring a lawsuit after discovering that the settlement is not sufficient to cover all of the victim’s expenses and losses.
- Do I understand the terms of the release? You are permitted to take your time in reviewing the terms and conditions of the release. You should pay particular attention to the rights you are being asked to give up by signing the release and what the insurance company is promising in exchange for your signature. These releases are often written using complex legal jargon, so it is not a bad idea to take the release to a trusted California personal injury attorney or another person familiar with these documents and ask this person to explain the release to you.
- How anxious is the insurance adjustor to get me to sign? An insurance representative or adjustor who is pressuring you to sign a release without letting you review it may be attempting to get you to sign a document that results in you waiving important rights needlessly. If you feel pressured by an insurance adjustor to sign a document quickly, politely inform him or her that you wish to review the document before signing. If he or she persists, a telephone call from your personal injury attorney may be able to convince him or her to give you the time you need.
Releases are common in personal injury cases in which there is a settlement and/or insurance company involvement. The fact that an insurance company is asking you to sign a release is not, in and of itself, a sign of nefarious intent. Just be sure to read the release carefully (and perhaps seek an attorney’s advice and insight) before signing on the dotted line.