Will a notarized document hold up in court regarding a car accident?

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Will a notarized document hold up in court regarding a car accident?

My son damaged a vehicle and the owner agreed not to file charges. We

offered to pay for repair and a rental during the repair. The estimate for both is $4500; I offered to provide a $4100 cashier’s check for repairs and $400 cash for a rental. However, they want the check written to the young man and not the body shop. If document is notarized stating that no charges will be filed and all payments have been made in full, can they come back later?

Asked on August 27, 2018 under Accident Law, Missouri

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

A written agreement that the $4,500 constitutes payment in full of all claims arising out of the accident, signed by the other side (their signature is what's important; all notarization does is confirm that that was their signature) will hold up in civil court: they cannot sue for more money after you pay them. The agreement should also state that they will indemnify and hold you harmless against any claims against you by their insurer--that is, if they end up putting in an claim(s) and getting money from the insurer, if the insurer sues you or your son for reimbursement under their right to "subrogation," the other party will pay the costs of and amounts owed from such suit. That way, they can't take your money, leaving you thinking that you have resolved the matter, but then you get sued by their insurer for money money.
However, they cannot agree to not file charges: the law does not let someone give up their right to notify the criminal authorities, since that could be so easily abused (criminals  offering their victims or witnesses some payment or compensation, or even threatening them, to not go to the police). That you have have paid the repair cost voluntarily would certainly be good evidence in your favor, but you cannot guaranty that the other side cannot go to the authorities.


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