Our firm often receives calls from people who had signed releases early on for their personal injury claims, then regretted the decision. While it’s understandable that an injured person would be eager to begin treatment, sometimes the pain worsens over time, a physical therapy plan needs to be implemented, or surgery becomes necessary. Once 60 days have passed, it is too late to renegotiate compensation for an injury.
Lesson #1: Don’t be too eager to settle your claim
Make sure you have recovered one hundred percent before you sign anything. Your health will affect you for the rest of your life, so allow enough time to pass to be sure of your recovery before you settle. Generally, if you are over 18 years old, the Statute of Limitations in Virginia is two years from the date of injury. By that time, you must either have settled your claim or have filed suit. There are some exceptions, and in some cases, you must give specific written notice as soon as six months after the injury. Because of this, it’s best to consult with an attorney regarding your specific case.
Lesson #2: Don’t let the insurance company pressure you into settling
It’s always worth getting some legal advice to level the playing field before settling your claim. All companies have financial goals, insurance companies included. They aim to settle as quickly as possible and for as little as possible, for profit. An insurance adjuster is a trained professional whose job is to meet these goals, so you need a trained professional on your side to look out for your interests as well. Some insurance companies actually offer incentives to adjusters who settle the most claims within the first 30 days after an accident.
Is it possible to break the release for my personal injury claim, once I have signed?
Most of the time, after you sign, you are stuck. There are some ways to “break” a release, but these are difficult. For example, there are some legal requirements that a release must meet, and if it doesn’t conform to these requirements, then it may not be valid. In 1999, the Virginia legislature passed a statute stating that when a person signs a release within 30 days of the accident, the person shall have 3 days after signing to revoke the release provided:
- The signer was not represented by an attorney
- The revocation is made in writing to the person or persons seeking the release, their representative, or insurance carrier
- Any money received is returned to the person or persons seeking the release. In 2000, the legislature added that the release must contain a notice that the signer has a right to revoke the release. See Virginia Code 8.01-425.1. If a release is missing that notice, then it may not be valid.
Additional facts that may cause a release to be invalid or “voidable” are:
- If the person who signed the release can prove that the release was signed under duress
- The release was signed due to fraud or a misrepresentation of a material fact
- There was some mutual mistake or there was no “meeting of the minds” when it was signed
Obviously these are very technical matters, and proving them almost certainly requires the assistance of an attorney. So,
Be 100% sure before signing a personal injury release
Before you sign a release that gives up your rights, be sure that you are healed and understand the full scope of your injuries. What you may think is compensation for your recovery may simply be a benefit to the insurance company. Speaking with a skilled attorney can help you navigate when speaking with powerful insurance companies. If you have been injured through no fault of your own, contact Allen & Allen today for a free consultation, at 866-388-1307.