A release of all claims is a legal document that absolves the drafter of all legal liability. If you are about to do something dangerous, such as bungee jump, you may be asked to sign a liability release. If, on the other hand, you have been in a car accident and the insurance company is offering you a settlement, they may demand you sign a release of all claims as a condition of the settlement. So, if you are faced with such a legal document, what do you do? Should you sign?
Understanding a Release of All Claims
A release of all claims is a blanket release that does exactly what it sounds like- you release any and all right to make claims against the person or entity who is asking you to sign. Claims can be insurance claims or can be lawsuits brought in a court of law. So, once you sign this blanket liability release, you are no longer going to be allowed to sue. Typically, the release of claims will refer to a specific incident. For example, if Dave and Sally get into a car accident and Dave asks Sally to sign a release of all claims, the release will specify that it is all claims related to that particular car accident.... Dave isn't going to ask Sally to sign a form releasing her of all claims on any subject for the rest of her life.
Assuming Sally signs, she is no longer allowed to bring any sort of claim related to that particular car accident. She can't sue Dave, or Dave's insurance company, for property damage, personal injury or anything else arising out of that accident that she released her right to make claims on.
Should You Sign?
Before you sign, you need to consider several important factors:
- What are you giving up: Would you be entitled to larger damages if you sued in court? How much more money would you potentially be able to get?
- What are you getting? It would usually be unwise to sign a release of claims or release of liability without getting something in return. Most often, these accompany settlement offers- you get the lump sum cash offered in settlement and you release the potential defendant of any further liability
- Do you know the full extent of your damage? Accepting a settlement and releasing the defendant of liability before you know how serious your injuries you are - and thus how much those injuries will actually cost you- can be very unwise
Before you sign a release of claims or a liability release form, make sure you consult with an experienced attorney. Your attorney can look over the forms to make sure that they are fair and reasonable and that your rights aren't being violated. He can also help you to understand what your other options are if you aren't willing to sign the form releasing claims.