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Please Don’t Sign There!

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Many years ago, while I was operating a general practice law firm, a chance client meeting occurred that profoundly changed my professional direction and ultimately sent me on the way to becoming a motor vehicle accident lawyer.

A middle-aged, single mother and woman of color told me that she had been involved in a collision approximately two years prior to our consultation. It was a bumper-to-bumper rear-end crash that happened while she was stopped, waiting for the light to turn. Her car had minor to moderate damage, and she suffered neck and back injuries as a result of the impact.

She went on to tell me that within hours of being released from the hospital emergency department, in a heavily medicated state, she was visited unannounced at her home by an insurance adjuster. He was driving a brightly colored SUV with the name and logo of his insurance company in banner form along the entire length of the vehicle. He told the woman that since her car had only minor damage she could not possibly be seriously injured and therefore was not legally entitled to compensation. He went on to say that he could, nevertheless, make a good faith settlement of $2,500 and write her a check on the spot if she would just sign a release. She did.

Within one year of the accident, she underwent highly invasive spinal fusion surgery to address the damage to her neck causally related to the collision.

At our meeting, she wanted to know if she could now make a claim because her injuries turned out to be far more serious than they first appeared; consequently, she was left permanently partially disabled and with significant medical bills. While the three-year statute of limitations had not run on her case, signing the release was fatal to resurrecting the claim.

What the insurance company did to this woman was deplorable, and I wanted to help her. Fortunately, I was able to get the release thrown out and went on to settle her case for $100,000, the full amount of the other driver’s insurance policy. I also found my calling in redressing the wrongs inflicted on accident victims by careless drivers as well as their insurance carriers.

These are the important takeaways from this story for everyone.

1. You should know that the extent of damage to your car has nothing to do with the severity of your injuries; that insurance company myth has been exploded repeatedly over the years by compelling scientific evidence. What is more, it is not possible to understand the full extent of your injuries so soon after an accident and therefore it’s not possible to accurately assess the compensatory value of your injuries so early on either.

2. There is no rush to settle. You have three years within which to bring suit and, more importantly, it will take, at a minimum, approximately six months for your body to fully subside from the trauma of a collision so that you and your doctors know what problems you will actually be left to cope with.

3. And most importantly, do not ever sign away your rights before consulting with an attorney!

Written by: Brian Lee


Brian Lee has been practicing law since 1982. His primary area of practice is motor vehicle negligence law. He personally oversees all cases for the firm. He is admitted to practice before all New York State courts, District of Columbia courts, and the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. Brian graduated with honors from Hamilton College (1978) and earned his JD from the University of New Hampshire School of Law (1982). He served as Captain, JAG, United States Army Reserve, until 1999. He is a member of the New York State Bar Association, Saratoga County Bar Association, District of Columbia Bar Association, Capital District Trial Lawyers Association and New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Brian has received a CV Peer Review rating by Martindale-Hubbell. The CV certification denotes above-average ability in his specialized practice area and unquestionable ethics.