When you are done with your personal injury case, what happens? How do you resolve your case? When do you get paid? What happens next? These are questions that have been asked of me lately. Here are some answers.
When you settle your case, the insurance company will send you (or your attorney, if you have one) a form entitled “Release of All Claims.” Each release form is a bit different, but they all have the same parts in California. There is a fraud warning to let you know that making a fraudulent claim in California is a felony punishable by fine and imprisonment. There is a signature section for you to sign. Some releases have a spot for a notary, and some for a witness. But, in any event, there is a space for someone else to sign it to verify it is your signature. There is standard language which basically says that you agree not to sue the other party and their insurance company for this accident. There is also a section that deals with how much money you are to receive. Then, each insurance company may add some language or modify it, but that is the general gist of a release.
Why do you need to sign it? Let me answer a question with a question. Why would the insurance company agree to pay you money if you did not agree not to sue their driver? If you could still sue the other party, the insurance company would not gain anything by having you sign a release. This is the bargain. You get paid and you agree not to sue the other party. It is put in writing so that it can be enforceable.
Once the insurance company receives the release back, they will send a check. At that point, the case is settled.
It is not as easy as it seems by reading this, but that is why, even if you negotiate your own settlement, you should talk to an attorney before signing any forms from the insurance company.