When Can Settlement Negotiations Start and When Can Releases from Liability be Voided?
Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Sep 20, 2019 in Personal Injury
Maryland restricts at-fault parties from starting settlement negotiations with injury victims before a certain point. There are also laws on when settlements that release at-fault parties from further claims can be voided and liability for parties not named in a settlement.
Below, the Silver Spring personal injury attorneys of Goldberg Finnegan discuss Maryland laws on these issues and what you need to know. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our attorneys today to discuss your injury claim.
Restrictions on Starting Settlement Negotiations
Maryland Code § 5-401.1(b) says it is prohibited for any party that may be at fault for someone’s injury to negotiate or attempt to negotiate a settlement within 15 days of the injury. This includes obtaining or trying to obtain a signature on a general release of liability within 15 days.
The law also says potential at-fault parties cannot try to use statements from the victim for the purpose of negotiating a settlement or obtaining a release of liability.
The next section of the law (Maryland Code § 5-401.1(c)) expands on this, stating: If you sign a settlement agreement or general release of liability while restricted to a hospital or sanitarium after you suffered a personal injury, those documents cannot be used in a legal action connected to the injury for any reason.
If anyone contacts you within 15 days of an injury, tell your attorney because the people who contacted you may have broken the law.
Voiding a Release Signed Without an Attorney
If an injury victim signs a release of claim within 30 days of his or her injury without receiving assistance from an attorney at law, it can be voidable within 60 days of the date the document was signed (Maryland Code § 5-401.1(a)(1)).
If an injury victim wants to void a release under the terms of this law, he or she must provide notice in writing and return any money paid as a result of signing the release. The law states the release becomes void the day notice is put in the mail.
Legal Action Against Parties Not Included in a Release of Liability
Multiple parties could have been involved in your injury. If you sign a settlement with one, Maryland Law Code § 5-401.1(d)) may still allow you to pursue a claim against other at-fault parties not covered by the settlement.
Maryland law says additional parties are not excused from liability when:
- They were not specifically identified in the release; OR
- Their responsibility for the victim’s injuries was not known when the release was signed
What You Should Do Before Accepting a Settlement
It is important to take the following steps before accepting a settlement offer, as your acceptance may prevent you from pursuing further compensation:
- Get medical attention right away: After your accident, visit the hospital or your doctor so that your injuries can be properly diagnosed by a medical professional. Immediate medical attention establishes records that connect your injury to the accident. Your doctor may also be able to help you determine what future medical care will be required for treatment, which helps you determine possible future expenses.
- Think about your job: If your injury prevents you from going back to work, try to determine how the injury has affected your job. If you are unable to perform certain duties, your ability to work now and in the future may be impacted, along with your future earnings. You may be able to obtain compensation for lost earning capacity in a settlement.
- Document everything: You need to gather documentation of the accident itself (such as photos, accident reports, witness information, etc.) as well as work records, medical records and medical bills.
- Hire a lawyer: Your attorney can thoroughly review your claim and help you determine how much compensation is needed to cover all damages. Your attorney should also review your release form before you accept a settlement and explain what rights you forfeit if you accept.
Get Help from a Licensed Attorney
It is important to review all settlement offers with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine if fair compensation is being provided for your damages. An attorney can also determine if you may have a claim against another at-fault party.
Schedule a free, no obligation consultation today to discuss your claim with our attorneys. There is no obligation to take legal action.