Auto Accident Lawyers
Auto Accident Lawyers: What You Should Know Before Signing the Car Insurance Company’s Release.
If you are involved in a car accident that wasn’t your fault and you are entitled to compensation for your injuries and other losses, the car insurance company of the driver who was responsible for causing the crash may contact you to try and settle the claim. This is exactly where you should be extremely careful so that you don’t rush to settle your claim and make mistakes. We highly recommend you consult one of the experienced Atlanta auto accident lawyers of a well-established and reputable law firm, like Bobe & Snell Law Office LLC so that you get everything right from the onset.
Perhaps, your first reaction to a settlement offer may be a sigh of relief. Now you will get money to pay for your medical bills, and to get your car fixed and back on the road, all without having to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit!
But don’t get too carried away, because you will also have to sign a document called a “release” before the car insurance company sends you any money. What exactly is a release and what is the legal impact of signing one?
What Is a Release?
A release is a legal document in which an individual agrees to give up, or release, certain legal rights. A release is also sometimes called a waiver. The purpose of the release is to end a legal matter (such as a civil lawsuit) and allow the parties to move on.
In the case of car accident claims or lawsuits, a person who signs the release gives up the right to sue certain individuals or entities as they relate to the specific accident. This means, if you sign a release from the other driver’s car insurance company, you will shield the insurer and its driver from any further legal action arising from the accident. In return, you will receive a settlement check.
Things to Consider Before Signing a Release
If the car insurance company offers to settle your accident claim, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before signing the all-important release. When you receive the release from the car insurance company, do not sign it until you have considered the following five things.
Get Permission from Your Car Insurance Company Before Signing the Release
You may need your car insurance company’s permission before signing the release. This is due to a legal concept called subrogation, which is very important in car accident cases, especially underinsured motorist cases. Here’s how it works.
Imagine you are involved in a car accident with another driver whose car insurance policy limits aren’t enough to fully compensate you for your losses. If you have underinsured motorist coverage, your car insurance company should make up the difference, up to your UIM limits.
Your car insurance company will then use the subrogation provision in your car insurance policy to recover (or, more realistically, attempt to recover) the difference directly from the other driver.
Your car insurance company is using your legal right to go after the other driver to receive reimbursement for the underinsured coverage payment it just gave to you; this is how subrogation works.
However, should you sign a release without your car insurance company’s permission, your car insurance company’s ability to go after the other driver is now gone. As a result, your insurance company may try to deny your underinsured motorist coverage claim.
Make Sure You Understand What You are Signing
Legal documents can be intimidating, and you may feel like there is no point in reading the release if you won’t be able to understand it. However, you will probably understand more of it than you might think, especially the most important terms— such as the settlement amount and the details of the settlement payment.
Additionally, don’t take the word of the car insurance company’s representative as to what the terms of the release are. Always check it over yourself to make sure there are no misunderstandings.
Make Sure the Settlement Money Covers All Injuries and Damages
Just because you feel fine and all your medical and repairs bills are fully covered by the settlement check, that doesn’t mean you have been fully compensated. Many injuries from car accidents aren’t discovered until a period of time after the crash.
That last thing you want to do is agree to a settlement of $20,000 for medical bills when a month later it turns out you need another $10,000 in medical treatment for injuries that have only recently presented symptoms.
Remember that once you sign the release, you can’t get anything else from the other driver or the other driver’s car insurance company.
Have an Attorney Review the Release
Not only will experienced auto accident lawyers be able to explain exactly what the release says and answer any questions you may have, but there may be certain legal rights you aren’t aware of that will vanish if you sign the release. Your attorney will point these out for you.
For example, let’s say you confirmed with your doctor and mechanic that the car insurance company’s settlement amount is enough to pay for all your repairs and medical bills. But you may have valid claims for other losses that you may have overlooked or failed to consider, such as lost wages or pain and suffering. You won’t know for sure unless you have an attorney review the release and ask you the right questions.
Determine If Anyone Else Could Be Responsible for the Accident
This tends to be an issue when more than one person or entity is responsible for the accident. For instance, let’s say you have a release that only applies to a commercial truck driver that hit you. The settlement amount isn’t enough to fully compensate you, but you are not sure if you should reject the release and file a lawsuit to try to recover the full amount.
If it turns out that you have legal claims against the commercial truck driver’s employer and another individual driver, you might be more willing to sign the release.
The decision to sign the release will depend on a variety of factors and circumstances. Make sure you have the whole picture before you make your decision. Atlanta auto accident lawyers can help car accident victims to make the right decision.
8 Documents to Show Your Attorney After a Car Accident
In a personal injury lawsuit, it is generally easier to prove that the other party was at fault when there is strong evidence. After a car accident, individuals who are seeking financial damages can use documents to build a strong case.
Important documents to build your accident claim after a car accident injury include:
- Witness statements
- Police reports
- All information exchanged at the scene
- Photos of the car accident
- Photos of all property damage to your car or belongings
- Photos of your injuries (not all injuries are on the surface or appear right away)
Remember, your car accident attorney has to convince the other driver’s insurance company that you deserve a fair settlement. So, the more evidence available to use, the better.
When pursuing a car accident lawsuit, here are eight documents you should show your personal injury attorney.
Police Reports and Records
When the police arrive at the scene, they will create a report. They may make a preliminary ruling as to who caused the accident.
While this decision may be modified or overturned as more evidence emerges, it can be a powerful way to establish that another party was at fault for causing the accident. This may give your car accident case leverage in settlement talks or when the case goes to trial.
Tickets/Citations Related to the Accident
In some cases, one or more drivers involved in an accident will receive traffic tickets. This could happen if a driver was:
- Driving drunk
- Driving in an unsafe manner
Traffic tickets may be used against a driver who was injured in a car accident. However, your auto accident lawyers Atlanta may be able to review the ticket. They can create an argument against the ticket, and why it does not necessarily increase your liability for the car crash.
Copies or Photos of Your Insurance Policy
It is illegal to drive without a valid insurance policy. If the accident took place outside of your home state, your policy is still valid. If your policy has expired or otherwise fails to meet the minimum standards in your state, however, that may be used against you.
Evidence of Premium Payments
It may be possible to show copies of checks sent to the insurance company. It may also be possible to show bank statements with the date that you made the last payment the amount. You could also use a credit card statement as proof.
Information Exchanged at the Accident Scene
One of the most critical steps to take after calling the police is to exchange information at the scene. Typically, drivers will exchange insurance information, as well as their names, addresses, driver’s license and phone numbers.
In some cases, it may be appropriate to share email addresses or social media contact information in place of a physical address or phone number. Whatever information is exchanged, you should keep it in a secure place and share it with your attorney.
Statements to Police and Insurance Companies
At a minimum, the drivers will give police their version of events at the crash scene. Those involved in the accident may also provide a statement to their insurance companies. Any witnesses may also give a statement to the police. Original statements may be especially useful if anyone changes their story in the future.
Medical Costs and Records
Keep all medical bills, even if it seems like a minor injury. Keep your receipts for medical expenses, especially out-of-pocket expenses or things paid for through a Health Savings Account (HSA), such as ankle braces, pain killers, or crutches.
Medical records will show whether you sought treatment after a crash and what the doctor found. They may also show whether you had underlying medical issues before the crash. If these got worse after the car crash, it may influence your personal injury claim.
Your attorney can use your recent pay stubs to determine any loss of current or future earnings because of your injuries. Recent tax returns and other financial documents can also help determine how much you could lose if you are unable to return to work.
When to Provide Documents to an Auto Accident Attorney
An auto accident attorney could ask questions or look at documents during a free consultation, but you may want to keep documents private until after you agree to hire the lawyer. Until that point, they are not under any oath to keep your personal injury case private.
Speak with An Experienced Auto Accident Attorney Today
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills, and other complications. Before taking legal action or trying to negotiate a settlement on your own, you should talk to an attorney about your case.
Auto Accident Lawyers
Contact Bobe & Snell Law Office LLC to discuss the merits of your case with one of our experienced, professional, reputable, and dedicated Atlanta auto accident lawyers. This one step can level the playing field, help you protect your rights, and put you in the best position to get the compensation that you deserve.
Call us now at (470) 268-5802 or contact us online to schedule a FREE, no-obligation consultation/case review.
Auto Accident Lawyers