An unfortunate event happened the other day: A very nice young man (we’ll call him Emilio) slowly and cautiously walked into my office in obvious discomfort. During our conversation, he had to pause several times to wait until a debilitating wave of pain passed. Emilio informed me that, about a week ago, he had been driving through a green light at an intersection when another car ran a red light and slammed into the passenger side of his car. Emilio explained that the other driver got the ticket, and had liability insurance. I took a look at the other driver’s insurance policy, and sure enough, everything was in order – the other driver did in fact have enough coverage to pay Emilio’s medical expenses and then some. I was optimistic that our firm would be able to help this prospective client receive the highest quality of medical care, and see that he was fairly and adequately compensated for his out-of-pocket expenses and for his pain and suffering.
But then he showed me one other piece of paper.
It was only a single page and was entitled Injury Release and said something to the effect of: For One-Thousand Dollars consideration I forever discharge for all actions, causes of action, demands, damages, costs, and any compensation whatsoever, which the undersigned now has or may hereafter accrue as a result of an accident which occurred on or about <date> at or near the intersection of <x> and <y>.
As you may have already guessed, Emilio’s signature was found beneath this language.
I had the unfortunate job of informing Emilio that, unless he signed the release under duress or after being threatened, or if he was so intoxicated that he could not have known what he was signing, we would not be able to help him because – since Emilio had already cashed the check – the release was a valid and binding contract. Emilio was heartbroken because he was under the impression that the $1,000 was just covering the bills he had already incurred, but genuinely thought the insurance company would pay for any future care that might be necessary.
I explained that this was a common technique employed by insurance companies. Too many people are in pain and need money now…and so they opt for the quick buck, not realizing how expensive their ordeal may become. Emilio did get $1,000 and would be able to access up to $10,000 more in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits from his own carrier. But when Emilio took $1,000, he essentially gave up what will eventually cost him many times that amount (judging by the amount of pain he exhibited only a week after the accident) in medical bills and therapy. Emilio would have also been able to recover lost wages stemming from time he had to take off of work and a claim for pain and suffering.
The insurance company won this battle. Please do not let what happened to Emilio, happen to you. Do not sign the waiver an insurance company puts in front of you. If you are in an accident, you have nothing to lose by calling our office. We do not charge any fee for consultation. In fact, you do not pay any legal fees at all unless we recover money on your behalf. Car accidents are a shocking and frightening experience. The insurance companies know this and use it to their advantage. Let our firm guide you through the process and ultimately get you the care and compensation that you deserve.