Question: Should I sign a release form given to me by an insurance company?
Answer: Never sign a release without the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney.
Insurance companies train their claims adjusters to settle claims quickly and inexpensively. They believe that the longer a claim remains open, the more money it will cost them to close it. It is for this reason that a claims adjuster will be in direct contact with you within 24 hours of your involvement and reporting of a motor vehicle accident.
The first thing the insurance adjuster will do is attempt to obtain your recorded statement. He wants to get your statement as soon as possible so that he can nail you down on specific facts, such as injuries. He will ask you if you were injured and if you went to see your doctor. Insurance adjusters are aware that some injuries take a few days to manifest themselves symptomatically so they want to get your recorded statement and possibly even settle the claim before you realize the nature and extent of your injuries.
During this initial contact, the adjuster may promise to pay your medical bills and make a nominal settlement offer to you. He will ask you to sign a release as part of that agreement. What he won’t tell is how you are affecting your legal rights to recover damages by signing the release.
Once you sign a release, you give up the right to recover any additional damages incurred by you after the date on the release. Although the insurance adjuster has offered to pay your medical bills, if you sign the release, the insurance company does not have to pay any bills you incur after the date on the release. Furthermore, your own insurance company may deny you Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits because you have prejudiced their rights to recover the money they paid on your behalf from the third party by signing the release.
It is very important that you have a full understanding of the insurance claims process before signing any document that affects your legal rights to recover damages when you are in a motor vehicle accident. This is why we recommend that if you are injured in an accident, you call us right away. As personal injury lawyers in Lake Oswego and West Linn, James F. O’Rourke Jr. & Associates have vast experience helping our clients understand the insurance claims process and maximizing their recovery. If you are injured in an automobile accident, call James F. O’Rourke Jr. & Associates at 503-772-4032.