When it comes to legal documents, many have old the old adage, “It’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.” Nothing could be further from the truth. While there may have been a time when the law was less developed and courts were more liberal in their interpretation of it and more consumer-centric, the law could not be more clear. With few (practically no) exceptions, if you signed it, you’re stuck with it.
A few years ago, a young man was in a car accident 10 days before his wedding. Fortunately, it wasn’t too serious. He was banged up and took an ambulance ride to the emergency room, but no broken bones or serious injuries were diagnosed. He was sore the next day, and a few bruises appeared. But he was fine in time for the wedding pictures. He considered himself lucky.
Not only was his bride the love of his life, but the wreck was not serious and the person who hit him had the same insurance company that he had. That meant a prompt response from an adjuster and a quick settlement. He was able to buy a new car in time for the honeymoon drive to Panama City Beach.
Twenty-four hours into their honeymoon, he begins to feel nauseous and starts throwing up. Perhaps he shouldn’t have had those raw oysters on his wedding night. They try over-the-counter meds, but they don’t work. He ends up going to the hospital. They give him some fluids and some stronger meds and after a while, that seems to do the trick. But now, the honeymoon is over. He still isn’t feeling great, so they decide to come home.
When they get home he goes to see his doctor who runs some tests. He just isn’t feeling well. It turns out that he has a hematoma (a mass of clotted blood) surrounding his spleen. The doctor asks if he had been in a wreck lately. So, it wasn’t the oysters after all.
He calls the insurance company to explain that he is going to have some medical bills and other damages. “I’m sorry,” the adjuster explained. “You signed a release.” The law in Alabama is pretty clear. If you signed it, it’s assumed that you read it and understood it.
It doesn’t matter how long the form is or whether you read it. It may not even matter what someone told you that it said or that you felt rushed. This is true of any contract, agreement, or release.