Soon after being injured in an auto accident, you may begin receiving a series of documents from the insurance company. Generally, these documents are an attempt to release the liable party from certain responsibilities.
While this is not an unusual part of the process for a personal injury claim, it is best to know what you are being asked to sign. This article takes a closer look at each document, their purpose and how the value of your claim can be dramatically affected.
Types of Releases and Authorizations in a Personal Injury Claim
There are three types of releases and authorizations:
- Medical Authorization, which gives the insurance company permission to look at your medical history
- Release of Claims and Liability, which lets the liable party’s insurance company “off the hook” for your injuries.
- Release for Property Damage Settlement, which depends on how much your vehicle was damaged. You will either receive a settlement check or have your car repaired.
Before signing either one of these documents, you may want a personal injury attorney to first evaluate your claim.
Your injuries and the level of medical treatment for recovery are primary factors that determine the value of your claim. In most cases, when someone else’s negligence caused the accident and your injuries, it is the responsibility of the insurance company to compensate you. This includes payment for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering after the accident.
However, dealing with an insurance company whose primary factor is making a profit holds no guarantee that you will receive all that you deserve. Signing a medical release form gives the insurance company access to not only present medical information, but also your past.
Without even knowing it, you can put your claim at-risk if the insurance company finds something it chooses to use to deny or decrease the value of your claim. The insurance company will attempt to relate injuries from the accident to information uncovered in your past medical history.
Doctor’s notes may also become scrutinized for any statements you might have made. The insurance company wants to find something you said that contradicts or is inconsistent with your injuries.
Even if the insurance company finds a legitimate excuse to limit or deny your personal injury claim, it is advisable that you speak with an attorney before signing a medical authorization release form.
Release of Claims and Liability
Eventually, the Release of Claims and Liability form is signed by everyone who wishes to settle their claim. However, there is a difference between receiving a fair settlement and a minimal value one. Signing this without fully understanding the consequences or the finality of what your signature means could be a huge mistake.
As the last document you sign before receiving the settlement check, an attorney who represents you could prepare the release document. Otherwise, you will sign one prepared by the insurance company with less than favorable terms.
Information in the Release of Claims and Liability may include:
- Names of everyone involved in the accident
- A statement that acknowledges you were involved in an auto accident on a specific date that led to your injury.
- The dollar amount of your settlement, minus property damage claims.
- The document may also include language that states the insurance company is responsible for specific medical payments or other debts related to the accident.
- A statement that releases the insurance company and the liable party from future claims related to this particular accident.
Release for Property Damage Settlement
Besides medical treatment for your personal injuries, another immediate concern after an accident is your vehicle. Getting it either replaced or repaired soon is very important. Not having transportation is an inconvenience that keeps you from doctor’s appointments and other things relevant to trying to live a normal life after being injured by someone else’s negligence.
Typically, you will receive a release form from the insurance company soon after agreeing to the settlement amount. Some insurers send the release form with the settlement check; others send the release form before sending the check.
Either way, carefully read the form and discuss what it means with an experienced accident attorney who will ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.