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Understand the liability waiver in your personal injury case

If you've been injured in a car wreck, at some point you're likely to settle the claim out of court -- simply because it is quicker and cheaper for both sides to reach an agreement.

If that's what is happening, you've probably had a similar experience to many other people in your position. You likely went through a painful period after the accident, with several months of treatment and healing. Once you ended your treatment, negotiations would have started. Negotiations may have been a little rough, but you and your attorney eventually came to an agreement with the insurer on an amount that you all felt was fair.

Here comes the tricky part:

Before you settle your claim and receive your payment, the other driver's insurer will want you to sign a form releasing it from any other claims. This liability waiver is sometimes titled a "Release of All Claims."

Essentially, it sums up the accident, including the date, time and parties involved. It also puts in writing how much money you are going to receive.

In exchange for the settlement check, the liability waiver may ask for the following things:

  • A statement acknowledging that the insurance company and its client is not admitting guilt.
  • A statement acknowledging that you will drop any lawsuit that you have begun or were considering over the case. Unless you have actually filed papers with the court, this settlement is not technically a lawsuit -- that would have come about if negotiations had failed.
  • A statement acknowledging that you understand you have no more right to any money for any other injuries that may be related to the wreck.

This last clause is particularly tricky -- and one that makes it important to consult carefully with your doctor before you sign that piece of paper. You want reasonable medical reassurance that you're unlikely to be suffering hidden injuries that could manifest in the future.

For example, if you suffered a whiplash injury in the accident, it's possible that you have damage in the brachial plexus nerves that hasn't manifested itself yet. Settling after only a week or two of chiropractic visits isn't necessarily wise if your doctor thinks that there is a possibility of this kind of injury.

Don't be rushed into signing away your rights to sue or collect for your injuries after a car accident. An attorney can help you determine if a settlement is the right choice in your case.

Source: FindLaw, "What Is a 'Release of All Claims' Form?," accessed Aug. 24, 2017

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