What is a “release?” It is exactly what the name implies. A release is a settlement agreement where one party agrees to waive their legal rights. For example, if you were in an accident and have a claim against someone for personal injuries or damages, then you might enter into a settlement agreement with that person or their insurance company. In the agreement, you agree to release the other party of “any and all claims” arising out the accident in exchange for payment of some amount of money. This release would usually waive all your claims including medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, as well as any future losses you may experience.
Signing a Release is Final.
Release agreements are fully enforceable and are usually final. They apply to all damages or injuries sustained, regardless of whether you know about them or not.
I get calls from many people who have regrets after entering into a settlement agreement because they decided to represent themselves instead of hiring a lawyer. They were lured by the insurance adjuster to accept some small amount of money if they would sign a release and end the claim. Then a few days or weeks later, they continue to have pain from their injuries.
Don’t Be Pressured into Signing a Release!
Insurance adjusters can be very shrewd, and even aggressive, in their efforts to settle claims before you retain an attorney. They will say things like “I can make you this settlement offer now, but it will not be available in the future.” Or they will say “If you hire a lawyer, then you will end up with less money in your pocket.” Don’t fall for these tactics! The insurance company would like nothing more than to have you accept their settlement offer and close the claim forever.
Don’t Get Tricked into Waiving your Rights!
You might unknowingly waive your rights. For instance, if you were involved in a car accident, the adjuster may agree to pay for your repairs if you sign a release. This might be a full and final release and may not just be limited to the car damages.
Even if the adjuster tells you the release is only “limited to the car damage,” the language of the written agreement controls regardless of what the adjuster tells you.
Another trick is where the insurance adjuster sends you a check for the car repairs or to pay for some medical expenses. But the check (or cover letter) contains release language like “Full and Final Release of All Claims.”
These are just examples of ways you can end up waiving your rights. To avoid getting into this situation, you need to consult with an attorney. Once you retain a lawyer, then you can let the lawyer worry about these matters while you just get the proper medical treatment and work on getting back to your daily routine.
The moral of the story is simple. Never sign a release until you consult with an experienced attorney and obtained reliable legal advice.