Georgia Personal Injury Release
Should You Sign That Personal Injury Release in Georgia?
A personal injury release is the document an injured person signs to bring his claim to a conclusion. Before you sign any release, you need to know the effect of signing it. There are several types of releases that may be used in injury cases; so this will be a series of blogs addressing the various kinds. This first blog will cover the basics of any release.
A Release Is A Contract In Which You Give Up Rights Against Others.
A release is a contract (almost always a written contract) that provides in exchange for some payment of money by the insurer you agree to give up all rights to make any further claim against the at fault person, their insurer, and the named insured(s) in the policy. The named insured(s) may or may not have been actively involved in causing the injury.
Sometimes releases will also say “and any other people who are or may be liable to Mr. Smith”, or they may list people the insurer thinks might possibly have some responsibility for the injury, even if the insurer doesn’t insure that person. Courts allow releases to extend to anyone the parties want to include in the release. So it is critical you understand everyone who is being released and make sure releasing them won’t adversely affect you.
Georgia Law Favors Settlements.
There are many cases our courts have considered where people signed releases settling their cases but – sometimes for very good reasons – later tried to undo the release. The courts that have decided those cases always point out that the law in Georgia favors settlement. So if a release is definite, certain, and unambiguous, it is likely a court will enforce it.
What If You Didn’t Read The Release?
People are shocked to find out that if you sign it, even if you didn’t read it, a personal injury release will be enforced. The law presumes that if you sign a release, you read and understood it. There are a very few times this rule doesn’t apply. Those are:
(a) an emergency at the time of signing that excused the failure to read;
(b) the opposite party fraudulently prevented you from reading it; or,
(c) a fiduciary or confidential relationship existed between you and the other party, and you relied on that other party in not reading the release.
This last one doesn’t mean just that you did in fact rely on the other party. It also requires you and the other party had a relationship in which the other party owed you a duty to make sure you read and understood the release. That relationship does not exist between an injured person and an insurer.
What If You Couldn’t Read The Release?
Even if a person is illiterate or blind or does not understand English, if she signs a release, the release may be enforced. The law requires a person who cannot read a release to exercise ordinary diligence to determine the content of it. While it is somewhat easier for a person who cannot read a release to get out of it, it’s not a sure thing.
Trying To Get Out Of A Signed Release Is Not Only Hard; It’s Expensive
If you try to get out of a release you signed, the burden of proof is on you. That means you have to prove to the judge or jury all of the legal requirements to get you out of the release are met.
Additionally, you will most likely have to hire a lawyer to handle the case for you. Since you can be sure the insurance company will fight you, expect to spend thousands of dollars with no guarantee you’ll win.
Ann-Margaret Perkins is a partner with Perkins Law Firm, L.L.P. practicing personal injury and social security disability, but her claim to fame is being mom to former Southeastern Guide Dogs breeder, Baxter.