Signing accident release forms?

by A

I was in a car accident while driving my wife's car. The insurance adjuster from the responsible party has totaled the car and stated since she is the only one on the title the check was made out to her.

When she got to the place to pickup her check they told her she needed to sign a release form. She told them she wasn't the one in the car at the time of the accident and they told her that I would have to sign another release form since I was the driver.

Is this true, or did they get her to sign away all claims pertaining to her vehicle? What should I be on the lookout for when signing these release papers? Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Signing accident release forms?":


While you haven't indicated what state you live in, if you live in a community property state, that may be the main reason the insurance company is requiring you to sign the release. In a community property state, a husband and wife each “own” 50% of the assets of the community estate and 50% of the debt. That translates into co-ownership of the car, even if your name isn’t on the title.

Assuming your wife was not injured as a result of the collision, and you do live in a community property state, if your wife signs the release, and you don't, then you would still have a right to argue with, or sue the insurance company about the amount of property settlement, or personal injury issues (if applicable). The insurance company wants to “clean the slate” so to speak.

If you do not live in a community property state, the insurance company may be requiring you to sign a release because in the event of your wife’s death, you, as the beneficiary of her estate, would be able to sue the insurance company for additional property damage, or injury. The insurance company must cover that eventuality.

What it boils down to is the insurance company wanting to cover every possible aspect of the claim. It’s about the lawyers. Lawyers are hired to protect their clients. Sometimes they may go past the point of necessity.

There isn't really anything to be concerned about when signing the release. They are standard, and basically cover what we just referred to.

Alternatively, if your wife was injured in the collision, consider speaking with a personal injury attorney before signing any release. Just make sure you don’t sign the release if anyone, whether your wife, or a third party, was injured. When in doubt, it's always best to speak to a local injury attorney. Most don't charge for initial consultations.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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