After a San Diego car accident, you’ll probably be interested in recovering compensation from the person who caused the crash. In most cases, this means that you’ll be dealing with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Specifically, you’ll file a personal injury claim and send them a demand letter asking for money. The insurance company will probably fight you every step of the way. They want to pay you as little as possible for your injuries.
It’s important to understand that if you accept an offer from an insurance company, you’ll be asked to sign an auto accident release form. Think long and hard about the offer you’re about to accept before signing a release. It will prevent you from pursuing any additional money in the future.
What is an Auto Accident Release Form?
When you file your personal injury claim with an insurer, you’ll probably go back and forth to negotiate a settlement. If it’s clear that the insurance company’s client is responsible for the accident, they’ll probably extend a settlement offer. If you agree to accept the amount of money they’ve offered, the company will also present you with an auto accident release form. This form serves two purposes.
First, it proves that you and the insurance company have a lawful settlement agreement in place. It terminates the personal injury claims process. Second, it releases the insurance company from any future liability for your injuries. Signing this form waives your right to pursue any additional compensation for your accident and injuries.
Why Do Insurance Companies Have You Sign a Waiver?
Insurance companies don’t have your best interest at heart. The last thing they want to do is pay out on an insurance claim. Some companies have bad faith policies in place to simply deny most claims when they’re received. Others take a more strategic and manipulative approach. Instead of denying a claim, insurance companies may contact an accident victim almost immediately after a crash. They’ll extend an early settlement offer and use every trick in the book to convince you that it’s your one and only shot at getting money after your accident. Tactics insurance adjusters may use include:
- Recognize your emotional distress and use that to their advantage
- Threaten to revoke the offer and not entertain any claims in the future
- Use the fact that you share fault for an accident to make the offer seem like it’s a great deal, or
- Make the offer sound enticing given your recent financial troubles.
It’s important to be clear: these initial offers will probably not cover the full extent of your injuries. They’re only being extended so that insurance companies can make your case go away for next-to-nothing. When you sign the auto accident release form, they’ll be off the hook for any additional damages you suffer.
Things to Consider Before Accepting a Settlement Offer
How can you be sure that you’re going to accept a settlement offer that is fair? What can you do to make sure that you won’t get less than you really need after your accident? These are all important questions. Here are a few things to consider:
- Never accept a settlement offer until you’ve substantially recovered from your injuries. Your injuries could get worse over time. You won’t know your costs until you’ve recovered.
- Consider speaking with an attorney before you even discuss a settlement with an insurer.
- If your claim was denied, or if an insurance company countered with a lower offer, demand to know why.
- Ask the insurance company for a verified accounting of your personal injury claim, including information about how they valued your injuries.
- Make sure that the offer you’re about to accept covers your costs today (e.g., medical, property damage, nursing care, lost wages) and costs you’re likely to have in the future (e.g., reduced earning capacity, medical expenses, disability).
Remember, accepting a lowball offer can hurt you in the long run. Signing an auto accident release form will essentially waive your rights to get more money in the future. It’s important to make sure that the insurance company has extended an offer that is fair and covers all of your costs. The best way to protect yourself is by hiring an attorney to handle your case. Your lawyer will analyze your case, determine what it is worth, and fight to get you the money you deserve.
Are you struggling with an injury after a San Diego accident? Do you want to learn more about your legal options? Call our attorneys today to schedule your free consultation.