What exactly is a Settlement and Release claim form?

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What exactly is a Settlement and Release claim form?

My husband just received a Settlement and Release claim form from the party at-fault party’s insurer. Does that mean their trying to settle for the amount specified on their. Does it matter if my father was policy holder at the time of the accident but my husband was the one involved in the accident (asking because the claim forms has my father’s name on it)?

Asked on September 10, 2011 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Your father's name is on the form because he was the registered owner of the vehicle.  Settlement and Release means that in exchange for accepting the amount of the settlement stated on the form, the party signing the form gives up his claim against the at-fault driver.

Your father and your husband need to be very careful about this before signing that form.  If the case was property damage only, then signing that form would be for the compensation for damage to your father's vehicle.  However, if your husband was injured in the accident, that form should NOT be signed until there is clarification in writing from the insurance company, that the settlement and release is for the property damage ONLY.    If your husband was injured in the accident and it is unclear whether that form you mentioned is limited to property damage, the form should NOT be signed because signing it may compromise your husband's personal injury claim.  If the accident occurred recently, it may be too soon to determine whether or not your husband was injured because auto accident injuries do not always manifest themselves at the time of the accident, but may appear later. 

If your husband was injured, his personal injury claim cannot be settled until he completes his medical treatment and is released by the doctor or is declared by the doctor to be permanent and stationary which means no further improvement is anticipated.  At either release by the doctor upon completion of treatment or being declared permanent and stationary by the doctor, your husband should obtain his medical bills, medical reports and documentation of any wage loss.  Prior to this, settlement would be premature because your husband would not know the total medical bills, total wage loss and would not have the final medical reports.  Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement.  Compensation for wage loss is straight reimbursement.  The medical report(s) will document the nature and extent of your husband's injuries and will be used to determine compensation for pain and suffering.  Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount in addition to the medical bills.  Your husband's personal injury claim will consist of the medical bills, medical reports and documentation of wage loss.  If your husband is dissatisfied with settlement offers from the insurance carrier, he can reject those offers and sue the other driver for negligence.  If the case is settled, NO lawsuit is filed.  If the case is NOT settled, your husband will need to file his lawsuit for negligence prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or he will lose his rights forever in the matter.  In CA, there is a two year statute of limitations in personal injury cases.  This means that the lawsuit must be filed prior to the two year anniversary of the auto accident.


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