YOU SHOULD NEVER SIGN A RELEASE OF ALL CLAIMS IN A CAR ACCIDENT CASE UNTIL YOU HAVE DISCUSSED YOUR CASE WITH AN ATTORNEY. Normally, if you obtain an attorney and after consultation with the attorney, you sign a release of claims, then you are going to be bound by the release and unable to re-open your claim. Even if you have no attorney, if you sign a release of all claims more than thirty days after the date of the accident, then you will be bound by that release. Any release signed within 15 days of the accident when the victim is still in the hospital can be set aside even if you had a lawyer at the time.
Insurance companies have recently tried to settle claims inside these periods by taking a recorded statement from the injured party getting them to agree to settle and release their claim without ever getting them to sign a release. They argue that the statute only provides protection if a release is signed. There is no case law on this topic yet.
An injured party should never release his claim until he has at least consulted with an attorney. In addition, an injured party should never release his claim until there has been adequate time to heal from all injuries.
Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, Md Code Annotated Section 5-401.1 states
A release of the claim of an injured individual for damages resulting from a tort, signed by the injured individual within 30 days of the infliction of the injuries without the assistance or guidance of an attorney at law, and any power of attorney to or contract of employment with an attorney at law, with reference to recovery of damages for the tort, signed by the individual within 30 days after the infliction of the injuries, shall be voidable at the option of the injured individual within 60 days after the day on which the individual signed the document.
(2) (i) Notice that a release is voided under this subsection by the injured individual shall be:
- In writing; and
- Accompanied by the return of any money paid to the injured individual as a result of the signing of the release.
- (ii) The release is void from the date that the notice is mailed.
(b) Restrictions on settlement, release, or statements of injured individuals. — A person whose interest is or may become averse to an injured individual who is confined to a hospital or sanitarium as a patient may not, within 15 days from the date of the occurrence causing the patient’s injury:
- (1) Negotiate or attempt to negotiate a settlement with the patient;
- (2) Obtain or attempt to obtain a general release of liability from the patient; or
- (3) Obtain or attempt to obtain any statement, either written or oral from the patient, for use in negotiating a settlement or obtaining a release.
(c) Use of settlement agreement or release as evidence. — Any settlement agreement entered into or any general release of liability made by any individual who is confined in a hospital or sanitarium after the individual incurs a personal injury may not be used in evidence in any court action relating to the injury and may not be used for any purpose in any legal action in connection with the injury if the settlement agreement or release is obtained contrary to the provisions of subsection (b) of this section.
(d) Effect of release on subsequent tort-feasor. — A release executed by an individual who has sustained personal injuries does not discharge a subsequent tort-feasor:
- (1) Who is not a party to the release; and
- (I) Whose responsibility for the individual’s injuries is unknown at the time of execution of the release; or
- (ii) Who is not specifically identified in the release.
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