Settlements can be a useful way for parties to avoid a long, drawn-out trial and still come to what they feel is a fair agreement. However, settlements often come with conditions. One of these may be a settlement agreement that includes a release of future liability. In a recent case, a settlement release barred all future claims arising from an incident against any parties. This meant that even though the plaintiff settled with a car insurance company, she was no longer able to sue her doctor for alleged medical malpractice while treating her for the injuries she sustained in the accident.
A 15-year-old girl was a passenger in a car when the driver of the car lost control and crashed. The girl was treated by a doctor for injuries she sustained in the accident. After bringing suit against the driver, the girl’s mother signed a release in exchange for a settlement with the driver and his insurer. The release did not discuss the treating physician or the clinic in particular, but it released all other claims that might develop from the accident.
The girl and her mother then filed a malpractice suit against the treating doctor. Specifically, they alleged that the girl’s arm would have healed faster and required less treatment if the doctor had done a skin graft and told her how to properly care for her wounds.
However, the court found that based on the language of the release, the malpractice claims were barred. The girl and her mother argued that the contract did not name the doctor and her practice. However, the court found that the contract was broad and unambiguous. The release specified that the girl and her mother released all additional claims of “any kind or nature whatsoever” against all other persons in claims related to the accident. Since the doctor treated her for injuries related to the accident, and since all other claims were barred, it did not matter that the doctor was not named.
When the parties in a case decide to settle, any party may require that a settlement agreement be signed as a condition of the settlement. As demonstrated in the case above, this can have implications not just for claims against the party that decides to settle but also for claims against any other potential parties.
In Illinois, generally a release must be given to the plaintiff within 14 days of the written confirmation of the settlement. This applies to settlements reached in cases involving personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death, or tort actions involving a claim for money damages. In addition, the settlement may require that a court approve of the settlement.
Have You Been Involved in an Accident?
Knowing what you are agreeing to when you settle a case is extremely important. Even if you think that it is the best decision in terms of your case against one party, you may be giving up your right to sue additional parties involved. For that reason, it is not a decision to take lightly. Having an experienced attorney to inform you about the terms of the settlement is essential. The lawyers at Moll Law Group have extensive experience handling personal injury and wrongful death cases and know what to look for in a settlement agreement. For a free consultation, fill out our consultation form or call us at 312-462-1700.
See More Posts:
Common Carriers Must Take Reasonable Care or Face Liability, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 12, 2016.
Safer Technologies in Cars, But Not For Everyone, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, February 2, 2016.
Illinois Protects Police with Partial Immunity in Police Misconduct Cases, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 16, 2016.