The Release – – the Most Powerful Document in a Personal Injury Case! By Richard J Marco, Sr.
One of the most significant documents in any personal injury case is the “Release,” sometimes called a “Release of All Claims.” This kind of Release signifies the end of the injury claim, and all that was involved.
Once a Release is signed, there is NO GOING BACK.
So, let’s see how we get from the auto accident to signing the “Release of All Claims.”
Whenever someone is injured in an accident, they are often told, “You better see a lawyer.”
That’s the best advice ever given.
The injured person calls a lawyer and explains, “I was driving on Gilbert Ave. when the light turned red. I stopped. The man behind me didn’t. He ran right into the back of my car and pushed me into the intersection. My car was severely damaged, and I was terribly hurt. My neck and back hurt so bad that the police officer ordered an ambulance to take me to the nearest hospital.”
The lawyer will meet with the injured person and discuss all the facts in the case. The lawyer will explain that it is their opinion that the potential client has a “personal injury claim.” That is a claim for compensation to pay for the injuries suffered.
At this point, several things happened:
The lawyer agrees to represent the injured person and present the claim to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. To memorialize the representation, the lawyer will draw up a contract explaining what services he will provide and how the client will pay for those services.
After reading it together, both signed it.
The contract is the first of several documents the client will sign during that representation.
Other documents that the client must sign include a HIPAA Release, which is an authorization to release medical information (this is not the kind of Release we are discussing here), a request for police reports, consent for your employer to provide lost wage information for the time the client was unable to work, the release of property damage expenses, and any other costs resulting from the accident.
After the lawyer collects all the information, they present those documents to the insurance company adjuster representing the person who caused the accident. The adjuster reviews all the documents, including the attorney’s “Demand Letter.” The Demand Letter argues for an amount of money the attorney believes will fairly compensate the client for the injuries caused by the at-fault driver.
The insurance adjuster then offers the injured person money through the lawyer to settle the case. After negotiations, the adjuster will make a final offer. At this time, the lawyer passes the proposal along to the client.
Suppose the lawyer or the client is unsatisfied with the money offered. In that case, the lawyer may discuss with the client whether or not they should file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
Most of the time, however, the lawyer and the client reach a satisfactory number with the insurance adjuster, something the client can live with and that the insurance company is willing to pay.
The lawyer should provide the client with an accounting based on the final offer. This accounting shows the client the settlement amount, the attorney fees, the attorney’s costs gathering the client’s documents, and the prices of investigation and expert fees. It also shows what money the lawyer will pay to various medical providers with valid liens against the settlement money. What is left belongs to the client. If the client accepts the offer, the client signs the accounting. Hence, the client knows exactly how the lawyer will disburse the money from the IOLTA account.
The case is almost over.
Then, the last document to be signed by the client is called a “Release.”
A Release is a critical document. Once someone signs a release, the relationship between the client, the at-fault driver, their insurance company, and anyone else involved ends.
Since it is the end, the client must be satisfied with the settlement amount of money. If so, the client signs the Release.
The Release says that in exchange for some money, the injured party, “the Releasor,” is bound to never, ever bring another claim for more money that has anything to do with the accident in question. There is no coming back later. Suppose the injured person, or the Releasor, brings a lawsuit later. In that case, the Judge will dismiss the case once it sees the signed Release Document.
A Realse is powerful! It is effective from the beginning to the end of time for any issue in that particular case. Once signed, THE CASE IS OVER. PERIOD.
Although you can overturn a duly signed and executed release, it is very rare. Usually, the person trying to overturn the Release must show that there was some fraud or extenuating circumstances over which no one had control.
Before signing any document called a Release of All Claims, you must give it as much thought as you would give anything you consider your most crucial affair – like signing a mortgage or a deal to purchase an expensive car.
Think before you sign a Release.