A release of claims is the document the insurance company or a defendant requires to be signed in order for payment to be made to settle the accident-related injuries. The release of claims details the compensation you will receive for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering in exchange for a release from any further claims.
Should You Sign?
If you are offered a release of claims a few weeks after your car accident, do not sign the document without careful consideration. Insurance companies are typically eager to settle claims early before you realize the extent of your injuries, so signing too soon may be a big mistake.
If you sign a release of claim, then seek the advice of counsel because you continue to hurt, the lawyer cannot reverse the effect of the release. Even if you do not intend to pursue a claim, you should consider consulting with an attorney to determine if signing a release is in your best interest.
The primary reason that attorneys caution against signing a release of claims too early in the process is that the severity of car accident injuries can be hard to predict. An injury that first seems to be a minor inconvenience may turn out to be much more serious. For example:
- Whiplash. Although most people with whiplash do make a full recovery, others are left with chronic pain that requires therapy, medication, and time off work well into the future.
- Concussion. A mild traumatic brain injury that happens after a blow to the head, a concussion can sometimes lead to a complex disorder called post-concussion syndrome. This condition causes symptoms such as chronic headaches, dizziness, and cognitive difficulties.
- Back pain. Don't assume that a backache will get better over time. Back pain after a car accident may be caused by damage to muscles and ligaments or a herniated disc. This can lead to chronic pain.
- Injuries to children. Since young children lack the communication skills necessary to fully articulate their symptoms, it is easy to underestimate a child's needs. Children may require treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a car accident which shows up later.
Another factor to consider when deciding if a settlement is appropriate is that pain and suffering compensation is often undervalued in the early stages of a claim. Pain and suffering damages are intended to reimburse you for the physical pain as well as the emotional trauma of the accident. Pain and suffering damages develop over time so and early settlement may not properly capture all these damages.
Maximum Medical Improvement and Your Settlement Offer
Regardless of the extent of your injuries, it is recommended that you refrain from settling your case until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is a term that indicates you have either fully recovered from your injuries or have stabilized your condition to the extent that it is possible for experts to accurately estimate what your future medical needs and future pain will be. Your doctor can explain when MMI is likely to occur for your injuries.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
A personal injury attorney offers several valuable services to resolve your car accident claim. For example:
- Assess the value of your case. While it is impossible to guarantee a specific outcome, a skilled personal injury attorney can assess the value of your case based on past experience with similar types of injuries.
- Document your expenses. To receive reimbursement for your damages, you need to have all of the proper documentation. It is easy to overlook required documents when you are distracted by your recovery, but an attorney will know exactly what's needed.
- Line up relevant expert testimony. If your case involves anticipated future medical expenses or loss of future earning potential, expert testimony will be crucial in establishing damages. Your attorney can locate the most qualified experts to testify on your behalf.
- Negotiate with the insurance company. The insurance company's goal is to make a profit, not to fairly compensate you for your injuries. Having someone advocate for your needs is critical.
Inland Empire Law Group's legal team is committed to help compensate California residents who have been injured due to the negligence of others. Our legal team wants to help you move forward with your lives. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville office. Call now at (909) 481-0100 and see the difference between our office and other lawyers in Southern California.