Should You Sign a Release from Your (or Someone Else’s) Insurance Company?
When you have an insurance claim after an accident, it is important to keep the insurance company’s priorities in mind. While your goal is to recover maximum compensation, the insurance company’s goal is to pay you as little as possible.
To do this, the insurance company will use a variety of tactics throughout the process. One of these tactics will involve asking you to sign a release. While you may end up signing a release eventually, you need to be very careful in the early stages of your claim. If you sign a release too soon, you could face unnecessary challenges—or you could even lose your rights entirely.
3 Types of Insurance Company Release Forms
When you have a personal injury claim, there are three different types of release forms the insurance companies may ask you to sign. Each presents its own risks, and each requires its own cautious approach.
1. Medical Release Forms
The first release the insurance companies typically ask accident victims to sign is a medical release form. So, what is a medical release?
A medical release is a document that gives the insurance company the right to obtain your medical records from your healthcare providers. If you ask your adjuster why a medical release is necessary, your adjuster will most likely say that it allows the insurance company to access your medical bills so that it knows how much to pay. Your adjuster may also say that it saves you the hassle of collecting your medical bills and uploading them for the insurance company to process.
But, while this may be true, it is just a small part of the story. The main reason why insurance companies ask claimants to sign medical releases is that they want access to claimants’ medical records dating as far back as possible. Why? Because this gives them the best chance to find a reason (valid or not) to delay or deny payment.
For example, let’s say you are dealing with back pain from a car accident. If you sign a medical release form and your records show that you sought treatment for a back injury previously, the insurance company may use this to claim that you are dealing with a pre-existing condition. Even if this isn’t true, you will still be forced to deal with the insurance company’s tactics before you can collect the financial compensation you deserve.
2. Property Damage Release Forms
The second type of release the insurance companies may ask you to sign is a property damage release form. This is a legal document that says the insurance company is not liable for any additional costs to repair (or potentially replace) your vehicle.
Insurance companies typically ask car accident victims to sign property damage release forms once they provide payment for the repairs included in the initial estimate after a collision. They do this because they want to avoid liability for any additional damage that may be discovered in the future. This only serves the insurance company’s interests (not yours), and it can be dangerous if you don’t yet know the full extent of the damage caused by the crash.
3. Liability Release Forms
The third—and most dangerous—type of release an insurance company may ask you to sign is a liability release form. While a property damage release protects the insurance company from financial responsibility for repair or replacement costs, a liability release form protects the insurance company from financial responsibility for all of the costs associated with a serious accident. This includes medical costs, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and any other losses you may have suffered to date—or that you may suffer in the future.
Insurance companies require liability releases when entering into settlement agreements; and, if you settle your insurance claim, signing a release will be a necessary part of the process. But, it is absolutely essential that you not sign a liability release too soon. If you do, you won’t be able to seek any additional compensation from the insurance company—even if you were unaware of certain losses when you accepted your settlement.
3 Reasons Not to Sign an Insurance Company Release
In general, you should not sign a release form unless advised to do so by your lawyer. Here are three important reasons why:
- You Don’t Have To – You never have to sign a medical release; and, unless you are accepting a settlement in full resolution of your insurance claim, you do not have to sign a property damage release or liability release. As noted above, these legal documents only benefit the insurance companies, and you are under no obligation to waive your legal rights.
- There Is No Benefit To You – Unless you have negotiated a fair settlement and the insurance company is willing to pay once you sign a release, there is no benefit to signing one of these forms. Signing a medical release can make it harder to negotiate a fair settlement, and signing a property damage release or liability release waives your right to any additional compensation.
- It Can Prove Extremely Costly – When you need to recover financial compensation after an accident, signing an insurance company release form can prove extremely costly. If you sign one of these forms too soon, there is a much greater chance that you will end up without the financial compensation you deserve.
How To Avoid Signing an Insurance Company Release
If you are dealing with insurance companies after an accident, how can you avoid signing a release? The easiest way is to not sign anything unless your lawyer says it is okay. Oftentimes, insurance companies will bury release language in other legal documents; and, if you are not very careful, you could waive your rights without knowing it.
Get Help from an Experienced Lawyer in Columbus, OH for Free
If you need to know more about protecting yourself against the insurance companies after an accident, we strongly encourage you to contact us for a free consultation. To speak with an experienced lawyer at Malek & Malek Law Firm in confidence, call 888-444-7440 or tell us how we can help online now.