It's an insurance company trick that is still all too common: The insurance company contacts an injured party shortly after they are involved in a car accident and before the injured party has consulted with an attorney. They offer a small amount to settle their claim. Often, they do this as part of the process of having the injured party's vehicle repaired. Unaware of their rights or the real value of their injury claim, the injured party signs a “release” or “release of claims” or similarly-titled document and they may receive a small monetary payment. They have unwittingly given-up a potential settlement far in excess of what they received from the insurance company.
In the last two weeks I have had to turn down two motor vehicle accident cases because the prospective client had fallen into this trap before contacting me. Unfortunately, insurance company releases are almost always enforceable and binding. In the first case, the insurance company somehow convinced (tricked) the prospective client into signing a release in exchange for having their car repaired after the accident. They added a very small additional payment to the car repair figure and procured a FULL RELEASE of this individual's bodily injury claim. That individual's injury claim would probably have been worth between $10,000 to $15,000. In the second case, the prospective client had received a check that was so small ($500) a few days after the accident that they had forgotten about it before contacting me to take their case. Their case would have been worth at least $5,000.
Most personal injury attorneys receive a fee of approximately 1/3 of the amount collected on behalf of their client (with the client receiving 2/3). 2/3 of $5000 is a lot more than 100% of $500. You are almost always better off hiring an attorney.
You are not obligated to sign anything to get your car fixed after an accident. Do not sign anything until you speak to an attorney first.
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