Everyone who has made a Maryland car or truck accident injury claim has seen a release of all claims come their way. Before the insurance company sends a check they want protection for their insured and their company. The release, in theory, provides such protection but as with most things there are exceptions and you should know about them.
Periodically at Clark and Steinhorn, LLC, we are consulted by victims of personal injury who are having second thoughts about agreements they have struck with insurance companies. They are worried that they have agreed to accept less than fair compensation or that they won't be protected down the road.
The question they often ask is "I've signed a release for the insurance company can I get out of it and get a fairer settlement?"
The answer is entirely fact dependent and generally is "No". However, a couple of different scenarios have come our way, where we were able to overcome the release and obtain additional compensation for our clients.
Generally, the issue is the "competence" of the person who signed the release. Competence means the mental capacity to understand the legal significance of one's actions. Thus, individuals with cognitive impairment (Dementia, Alzheimers, PTSD or as the result of medications) can sometimes escape the consequences of their actions.
In a recent case a client had agreed to a settlement that was vastly less than the actual case value. When we confronted the insurance adjuster about the signed release they admitted that the medical records showed the individual was strongly medicated with pain-killing drugs which could have resulted in cognitive impairment.
Ultimately, the case was settled for the insurance companies policy limits which was multiple times what the client had initially agreed to.
Cases involving settlements for minors (Under 18) are also far more likely to be susceptible to being overturned, as a child is thought to be less able to ascertain the reasonable value of their case and an adult acting on their behalf (typically a parent or guardian) in signing a release is held to a higher more stringent standard.
The bottom-line don't sign a release unless you have advice from an experienced attorney and if you have mistakenly done so, it can't hurt to Clark and Steinhorn, LLC at (301) 317-1001.