Understand It Before You Sign It!
A Part of the Georgia Car Damage Manual: How to Get Your Car Repaired or Paid-as-Totaled after an Accident
Once you have negotiated your property damage claim and agreed on an amount, the insurance company will require you to sign a “release” as a condition of paying the settlement amount. We can’t stress enough how important it is to carefully read and understand everything in the document before signing it. By signing, you are forever “releasing” or giving up your rights to pursue the claims it covers. This is why it is so important to read and understand which specific claim (or claims) you are agreeing to give up in exchange for the settlement check.
The release should say “Property Damage Release,” or something very similar. If it says “General Release,” that likely means you are being asked to give up your rights to pursue other claims as well, such as personal injury claims. You may also be asked to sign other documents in addition to the release, such as an authorization for the insurance company to obtain your medical and/or employment records. Never fall for this trick—no insurance company can require you to sign these as part of your property damage settlement.
The consequences of signing a release that gives up your right to pursue an injury claim are very severe. Unfortunately, by the time many folks realize their mistake, it is too late. The law is very unforgiving when it comes to one’s duty to read a contract such as this. If you wait to talk to a lawyer until after you’ve signed a release, there is likely nothing the lawyer can do. This means you will never be able to recover for your medical bills, pain and suffering, or any other damages relating to your injuries from the wreck.
Again, the insurance company is not your friend here. If you are unsure about what you are signing, seek an attorney’s advice.
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