Release for Property Damage in Auto Accident
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- Product Details
- Voluntary. The release must be voluntary. Each side must enter into the agreement voluntarily. If a party was coerced into signing an agreement because of the other's threats or intimidation, a court may consider it involuntary and therefore unenforceable. However, courts are quite leery about tossing out a release for this reason. For example, in a dispute involving the repair of a bicycle, one party telling the other "I'll sue for $100,000 tomorrow if you don't agree to this release" is not the kind of threat that will make a release unenforceable. The threat or coercion must be both significant and within the realm of possibility.
- Fair. The agreement must be arrived at fairly. Judges are usually unwilling to enforce any agreement that is the product of deceit or the result of one side taking undue advantage of the other. For example, if a person is persuaded to sign a release two hours after an accident that left him groggy or doesn't understand the meaning of the document or the rights being waived because of limited English, a court will likely not uphold it.
When can I use this release?
This Release for Property Damage in Auto Accident can be used to resolve a claim over property damage caused by another person. In general it can be used for situations when one party causes property damage to another as a result of an auto accident -- for example, a typical fender-bender in which there was no physical injury.
To be legally enforceable, a release must satisfy two contract law requirements:
Releases are powerful documents. If you sign one forever giving up a legal claim in exchange for $500 and learn six months later that the extent of your damage is much greater than you realized when you signed the release, you are out of luck unless a court declares the release unenforceable for one of the above reasons.
TIP: You can't release what you don't own
If you've assigned your rights to someone else, that person becomes the Releasor, not you. As you will see, one section of the release form contains your promise that you own the right that is the subject of the release.
What if one of the parties to the release doesn't follow through?
If either of the people signing the release doesn't pay the money or do the promised deed, the other has a choice. The wronged party can take the appropriate legal steps concerning the original dispute as though no release had been signed. Or either person could go to court and ask a judge to enforce the release (after all, it's a contract). A judge will consider whether the release was voluntary and whether the agreement was arrived at fairly. You can use small claims court to enforce the release if the amount is within the jurisdictional limits of the court. This is a good option, especially if the only thing involved is money.
What's the difference between the "releasor" and the "releasee"? What is "consideration"?
Typically, the person with the claim who releases the other is called the Releasor. The Releasee is the person responsible for the injury or the claim who agrees to pay money or promises to do (or not to do) something of value in exchange for the release. This is called paying consideration. To be binding, all contracts, including releases, require an exchange of consideration. The exchange of consideration (such as payment of a specific sum of money) should ideally occur before the release is signed. If this is not possible or feasible, the release should specify when the payment or consideration will be provided.
What happens if one party dies?
If one of the parties dies, you want the release to be binding on that person's heirs. This release form includes language about successors, assigns, and heirs. In addition, in all community property states (and in some noncommunity property states), one spouse is generally liable for the debts of the other spouse and is entitled to recover monies owed to the other -- even if the first spouse had nothing to do with the event leading up to the liability. For this reason, this release is binding on spouses and requires the spouse's signature that signifies consent to the deal.