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Can You Escape the Consequence of Signing a Release

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who received a check and was asked to sign a release. He thought the release only pertained to his property damage claim following a crash. But he wanted to bring the paper in for one of our attorneys to read through.

This situation happens more often than you might think.

Suppose an insurance company contacts you a week after a crash and decides to offer you a lowball settlement. You think you’re feeling fine, so you decide to take the lowball settlement and sign a release. But two weeks later, you start to feel terrible and contact an attorney. Your question: is there any way you can avoid the fact that you signed a release and go ahead and sue the other driver?

While releases are typically enforced by the court. Just like any contract, there are specific arguments to be made which might convince a court to allow the signer to escape the consequences of signing a release.

What if the person who signed the release was illiterate? What if the signer’s primary language was not English? What if they didn’t realize that they were being asked to forever sign away their rights when the release was presented to them to sign.

Insurance carriers often ask a driver to sign a property damage release after a crash. Such releases ONLY deal with property damage claims and leave open the right to bring an injury claim.

But suppose the release presented for signature in the property damage claim covered all types of claims, including bodily injury. In such a case, the person who signed the release could argue that it was signed by mistake.

Suppose further the adjuster sent a cover letter suggesting the paper being signed only pertained to property damage.

It can get complicated when property damage and bodily injury claims get mixed up, especially when you factor in issues about rental vehicles.

Insurance companies all use form letters and actually attach the wrong form unintentionally from time to time.

Other arguments include that the party signing the release did not have legal representation. Or that the party drafting the release made a material misrepresentation or that the money consideration offered for the release was not fair or reasonable.

Many times we suggest consulting an attorney when in doubt about papers that you are being asked to sign.

It is likewise true that if you find that you have signed a document that you worry might foreclose any lawsuit, that you consult an attorney to obtain an opinion as to whether there is any way to escape the consequences of signing a release that you regret having signed.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”