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The insurance company wants me to sign a release in my NY car accident case before speaking to an attorney. Should you do it?

 

A:

Not every case requires an attorney.

For example, a simple car accident case where you have limited property damage to your car may not require an attorney.

Maybe you suffered some bruises from your car accident and the insurance company wants to give you a few dollars to make the matter go away. You may not need an attorney in that case.

What happens if your injuries are more significant?

Before you have a chance to speak to an attorney, the insurance company, without you asking, sends you a sizable settlement check together with a document called a “release” asking you to sign it. Do you take the check, sign it and immediately deposit it? Do you sign the release?

Here's what you need to know if that should happen to you.

The insurance company is taking a gamble that you will eagerly accept a settlement check even before you have had an opportunity to speak to an attorney and before you determine the full extent of your injuries.

How does the insurance company know at the very beginning whether your injuries are ongoing and whether you will need ongoing medical care and treatment in the future?

How does the insurance company know how the injuries will affect you in the future?

How do they know what disabilities or limitations you will have from this incident?

In all likelihood, they have not had an opportunity to obtain copies of your treating doctor's medical records. There's also a good likelihood that they have not spoken with any medical experts to determine whether your injuries are lifelong or temporary.

They are betting that you will accept their settlement offer and make this case go away before it gets rolling.

They know that the longer your matter goes on, the more you are going to support your claim with medical documentation that shows the extent of your injuries. They also know that if you do that, the value of your case will increase over time.

If you deposit that check, you are basically saying that you accept what they have offered to you and by signing the release that means that you will no longer be allowed to proceed forward with any lawsuit or litigation against the people that have caused your injuries.

That could be devastating, especially when you learn that your injuries are much more significant than you originally believed. The last thing you want to do is to go to a lawyer's office with a copy of your settlement check, your deposit ticket and your signed release and ask whether you can reverse this, give the money back and proceed forward with a lawsuit.

To answer the question, should you sign a release and deposit the check, you need to speak to an attorney immediately before signing the check or signing any release. That's the best way you can learn what your options are and only then can you make an educated decision about what to do next.