Once you have settled a personal injury case, the insurance company requires that you sign a release, which is a legal agreement. Because you want to be sure that you are being fairly treated by the insurance company, you want to be sure you understand all the terms that may included in it. You also need to understand it so that you don’t unintentionally violate the agreement.
What the final release normally says and does
In most cases, a simple release absolves the at-fault party and the insurance company of any further responsibility and/or liability for your claims against them, including past and present injuries and damages and losses you sustained. It’s important to know that once you sign the release, it is highly doubtful that you will have any right to bring further claims against them for that particular case.
Some common terms found in final releases
The following are some common terms found in final releases that are important for you to understand.
- Settlement Amounts: This is the total amount you will receive for any and all injuries, losses, and damages relating to your claim against the defendant.
- Release of Claims: You will be releasing the defendant and all other parties involved (e.g., insurance company) listed in the release from further responsibility and liability for any claims you had against them. This includes all past and future injuries, damages, and losses sustained by you as specified in the Release. In addition, you won’t be able to bring any further claims against any of the parties listed in the Release.
- Indemnity and Hold Harmless: You may be required to agree to pay all bills associated with your claim for which you received the settlement. The amount of a settlement in a personal injury claim is to pay such things as medical bills, to reimburse the health insurance companies that paid the bills for you, to satisfy any liens you may have incurred relating to your accident, etc. The Release also releases the defendant and others from paying your own attorney and any case costs associated with your claim (like paying for medical records, etc.). The Release extends to and includes indemnity from all costs and attorneys’ fees that may be incurred by the released parties as a result of such claims by third parties.By signing the release, you are promising to hold harmless (not responsible) the defendant or others for any of the above.
- Confidentiality: You may be required to keep confidential the terms of the release and the amount of money you receive. When an inquiry is made about your claims against the defendant, you usually agree to state only that: “The matter has been resolved.” There are exceptions such as addressing it with your accountant. If you are compelled by a court to disclose settlement information to a third party, you typically agree to inform the defendant of this intended disclose.
- Attorneys’ Fees for Enforcement of Release: You may be asked to agree that if legal action is taken to enforce any provision in the Release, the prevailing party is entitled to its reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
- Taxes: You are responsible for any federal, state, and local tax liability relating to the payments made under the Release. (We cannot advise you about tax issues and recommend that you speak to an accountant or attorney that practice in this area.) In most instances, personal injury settlements are tax free.
If the case was resolved by a court of law, other provisions will likely be included.
It’s important to know your rights and to understand your responsibilities when your personal injury case is settled, so become knowledgeable about the terms. If you don’t understand something, be sure to ask your attorney to explain.
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Little Rock, AR 72206
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