Most car accident cases are resolved out of court, between the injured party and an insurance company. But before you sign any documents to settle a car accident claim, you should know your rights and the legal consequences involved. What happens if you want to sue for more money after signing the settlement agreement? Are there advantages to settling the case instead of taking it to trial? Read on to learn about things to consider before you sign a car accident settlement agreement form.
What Is a Car Accident Settlement Agreement Form?
A car accident settlement agreement form is a document agreeing to resolve the parties' differences with each other, dismiss their claims, and release the opposing parties from liability. Settlement agreement forms are also sometimes called releases or waivers. A settlement agreement becomes enforceable upon signing by both parties.
The most typical settlement agreement involves compensating the injured party by an insurance company in exchange for releasing the insurance company and/or the driver who is at fault from all responsibilities arising out of the car accident. The agreement form should include the following information to make it valid:
- Details of the accident: The agreement should contain the date and location of the car accident.
- Claims: The form should contain the claims (i.e., bodily injury, property damages, and other noneconomic damages). It should identify whether the form is releasing the party of all claims or only certain claims. In some cases, insurance companies will make separate agreement forms for bodily injury and for property damages.
- Parties: The form should specify the identities of the parties.
- Payment: The form should state how much money the insurance company is paying in exchange for the release of claims.
When to Sign a Car Accident Settlement Agreement Form
If you've been injured as a result of the accident, don't proceed with a settlement agreement until your medical treatment is nearly complete and your condition is stable. Don't overlook the fact that you may experience additional injuries at a later time. Once you sign the settlement agreement form, you cannot go back and sue for more money, even if your injuries become more severe. As a result, you should wait to settle your claim until you believe you will be compensated for all of your injuries.
Can I File a Lawsuit Instead?
Once the insurance company makes its highest offer, it is up to you to accept or reject it. While you may think a court, on the other hand, would compensate you the maximum amount, that is not true in most cases. There are several advantages to settling a claim through an agreement. First, it involves fewer costs because you can avoid any litigation and court fees. Next, if you take the case to court, the defense counsel may notice weaknesses in your case that the claims adjuster of an insurance company is less likely to be aware of. Also, you can avoid the stress of litigation, which often involves a longer timeframe than settling a case.
However, in some situations, it may be necessary to take the case to court. If the insurance company is being unreasonable, or has been known to be unreasonable, you may want to skip the settlement process and take your claim to court. Or if your case involves serious injuries or the death of a person, your case may involve complex issues that require court action.
Do not sign anything if you disagree with any of the terms on the settlement agreement form. You can always seek mediation or alternative dispute resolution to resolve any disputed terms. If you and the other party are unable to come to an agreement, you should then consider filing a lawsuit.
Get a Legal Claim Evaluation
In a car accident claim, insurance companies do not always give you the best offer in the initial phase of negotiation. And it's often easy to overlook important factors that give you a better chance of receiving a fair settlement offer. Keep in mind that signing a release form, or the settlement agreement, means you are waiving all future claims related to the accident. If you are considering settling a claim or have received a settlement offer, talk to a personal injury lawyer.