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Release of Claims Trap

by Joseph Kelly
(Phoenix, Arizona)

Hello,

I was involved in an accident that was not my fault. I was rear-ended by two individuals so I am having to deal with two separate insurance companies.

I submitted my medical bills which totaled around $500. In addition, I submitted my loss of value for my vehicle which I had inspected by a gentleman with 20 years experience in inspection with a sworn affidavit of his experience as well.

While my medical bills were not high, the damage to my car was extensive. It had 800 miles on it when it was hit and the estimated loss was around $10,000.

To make a long story short, they have been trying to get me to sign a release form to be paid on what they said is the "injury portion only". I carefully read everything before I sign and it clearly states the following:

"By executing this release, I intend and agree that this release applies to all of my claims arising from said accident, present and future. Including, but not limited to, damage to or destruction of property; claims for known or unknown injuries...etc."

I have contacted both insurance companies and they say they don't have any other form and that I have to sign this one. Now, I'm not an idiot. I told them that until this form specified that it pertained to bodily injury claims only, that I would not sign it. All they continue to do is remind me of my statute of limitations.

I don't know what to do. I don't want to get a lawyer involved and I am not asking for anything more than what I believe is fair but they are making it very difficult. HELP!

Thank you,
Joseph Kelly



Answer:

Hello Joseph,

Your instincts are correct. This is a trap. Insurance adjusters can simply re type the release and make it clear what you are settling for. They do not have to follow an specific format.

They can re type it and make sure that you are settling only for the injury or only for the property damage or for both.

This is a common thing for insurance companies to do. Lawyers always limit this type of releases if they disagree.

If you are having difficulty with the insurance company and you have a statute of limitation approaching, really consider talking to an attorney.

I know you do not want to, but if the insurance company is using deceptive practices, then you probably need more aggressive representation.
Also, consider filing a formal complaint against the insurance company with the department of insurance (or the office of the insurance commissioner).

Explain to them how the insurance company is leveraging the settlement of the injury against the settlement of the property damage. This will make them explain their actions.

I hope this helps,

Good Luck
Hector.

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