If you’re injured in an accident caused by someone else in South Dakota, you’re entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering from the at-fault driver for your damages.
Your first step toward fair compensation is to file a claim for damages against the at-fault driver’s insurer. Your claim must prove the other driver’s liability and document expenses incurred as a result of the wreck. If the insurer doesn’t offer a fair award, you have the option of filing a lawsuit, but most car accident claims are settled out of court.
Signing a Release Form
To save money, the insurer might offer you a settlement that’s not enough to cover your damages. If you accept it, you’ll have to sign a form releasing the at-fault party and their insurer from any further claims. That means you can never ask for more money even if you have future medical issues requiring more treatment as a long-term result of the wreck. For these reasons, you should:
- Understand what you’re signing. The release form might be written in very technical language that’s hard to understand. It’s a good idea to have an attorney review the form and explain it to you clearly before you sign.
- Be sure the settlement is sufficient. Future accident-related complications sometimes arise years after a car crash, so it’s important to know not only your past and present medical expenses but also your long-term prognosis and your estimated future medical bills. An experienced attorney can consult with your doctors to determine what constitutes a fair award.
- Determine whether more than one party is liable. If, for example, you’re injured by a commercial truck driver, there might be more than one party responsible for damages. If you release only the at-fault driver, you still might have future claims against the trucking company or other defendants. Be sure you understand exactly whom you’re releasing from further claims.
- Get permission from your own auto insurer. If the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay all your expenses, you may get compensation from your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). Your insurer then has a subrogation claim against the at-fault party for the money paid to you. If you release that party from future claims, your insurer loses the right of subrogation and might then deny your UM/UIM claim.
Fortunately, you do not have to go through this process alone.
Consult an Attorney Before Signing Anything
An experienced car accident lawyer can be sure you understand the release form and advise you on the benefits and detriments of signing it rather than going to court. Contact us online or call us at 605-644-5003 to schedule a free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.