Legal News & Updates

What is a limited liability release?

There are generally two types of possible releases to sign after a you get close to settling a case in Georgia: A General Release and a Limited Liability Release. So what’s the difference between them? What one should I sign? What does a limited liability release look like? Well, let’s take each one of those questions in turn:

First things first, always be careful when an insurance company hands you a general release. A general release is a settlement document that settles virtually everything in a case. You are releasing absolutely everyone “known and unknown” that may have been responsible for your injuries. With a limited liability release, as the name suggests, you are limiting it to certain people or entities. For example, you may settle with one the person who caused the car accident, but can still go on to pursue your on UM, which means under/uninsured benefits through your insurance company.”

As a practical matter, second, your default should pretty much always be a Limited Liability Release given the risks of a signing a General Release. This situation often comes up in the context of an automobile accident with a ‘minimum limits’ at-fault driver. Georgia law only requires that people carry $25,000 in insurance coverage. If a person hits you and your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, etc. exceed that amount, a Limited Liability Release will be the way for you to come back to your own insurance company for compensation.

Finally, you probably are wondering exactly what a Limited Liability Release looks like in Georgia. Here’s a template of one (with our usual disclaimer that’s not offered for legal advice):

LIMITED RELEASE PURSUANT TO O.C.G.A. § 33-24-41.1

______________________, (“the UNDERSIGNED”), for and in consideration of the sum of ___________ ($__________), to the UNDERSIGNED, in hand paid, receipt and sufficiency of which is hereby acknowledged, does hereby and for the heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns of the UNDERSIGNED acquit, remise, release, and forever discharge:

(1)       _________ __________________ (“INSURANCE CARRIER”) with regard to Policy No. _______________; from any and all claims, demands, rights, and causes of action of whatsoever kind and nature, including but not limited to, all known and unknown bodily and personal injuries of the UNDERSIGNED, all hospital bills, doctor bills, drug bills, and other medical expenses, that belong to the UNDERSIGNED or which may hereafter accrue to the UNDERSIGNED on account of or resulting from the incident, casualty or event which occurred on or about ________________ near or around ______________(“INCIDENT”); and

(2)       _______________________  (“LIMITED RELEASEE”), except to the extent other insurance coverage is available which covers the claim or claims of the UNDERSIGNED against the LIMITED RELEASEE, from any and all claims, demands, rights, and causes of action of whatsoever kind and nature, including but not limited to, all known and unknown bodily and personal injuries of the UNDERSIGNED, all hospital bills, doctor bills, drug bills, and other medical expenses, that belong to the UNDERSIGNED or which may hereafter accrue to the UNDERSIGNED on account of or resulting from the INCIDENT.

All parties acknowledge that the payment referenced herein does not make whole nor fully compensate the UNDERSIGNED for losses sustained as a result of the INCIDENT.

This Limited Release is entered into pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 33-24-41.1, and its force and effect shall be as contemplated by that statute.  This Limited Release does not release INSURANCE CARRIER with regard to other insurance policies issued to LIMITED RELEASEE or to any other person or entity, including the UNDERSIGNED, and the UNDERSIGNED maintains all rights to pursue recovery with regard to insurance policies not identified by policy number herein.

This Limited Release shall not release any persons or entities not specifically named.

All parties deny liability, and all parties may deny liability in any future action.

The UNDERSIGNED understands that the injuries sustained are or may be permanent and progressive and that recovery is uncertain and indefinite.  The UNDERSIGNED has relied wholly upon his or her own the judgment, belief and knowledge as to the nature, extent, effect and duration of said injuries and liability, if any, and such is made without reliance upon any statement or representation of any other person.  The UNDERSIGNED acknowledges that no promise, inducement, or agreement not herein expressed has been made and that this Limited Release contains the entire agreement between the parties.  The UNDERSIGNED is 18 years of age or older, of sound mind and laboring under no disabilities.  The foregoing representations are made in order for the parties released hereby to rely upon them in effecting this Limited Release.

The UNDERSIGNED acknowledges prior receipt of this Limited Release and that it is notice in writing of lack of consent of the LIMITED RELEASEE to this settlement and that the this Limited Release does not preclude the LIMITED RELEASEE from asserting claims against the UNDERSIGNED.

The UNDERSIGNED agrees to take reasonable steps to satisfy or otherwise resolve valid and enforceable liens accrued as a result of the UNDERSIGNED’s alleged injuries arising out of the INCIDENT and agrees to effect necessary probate matters, if any, in due course.

This ________ day of ___________, 20___.

___________________________

[Insert name of release]

Sworn to and subscribed before me,

This _____ day of _______, 20___.

____________________________

Notary Public

In short, be careful what you sign and talk to a lawyer first. We’re here to help so feel free to give us a call or send a message anytime: (404) 566-8964 or kevin@patricktriallaw.com

Are personal injury settlements taxable?

People often wonder whether or not their personal injury settlement is considered taxable income. It’s a great question and a very real consideration for any case. Fortunately, the IRS has given us a fair amount of guidance on this topic. The most important aspect is that the IRS typically will not disturb a settlement that is “consistent with the substance of the settled claims.” This terminology basically means that the government will not alter a settlement so long as the parties are being truthful about the nature of it.

Let’s consider six different types of settlements:

Personal Physical Injuries or Sickness: If a person receives a settlement for a personal injury case, such as an automobile accident, and the settlement is a lump sum payment i.e. there is not a specific breakdown of the settlement distribution, then the full amount is not taxable. A person does not need to include the settlement proceeds in his or her income. As a practical matter, a personal injury attorney will typically request that the settlement in this form. Interestingly though, if a settlement is broken down, i.e. “X” for medical bills, “Y” for pain and suffering, and “Z” for lost income, then the IRS may tax the settlement. A person will be required to report it on Line 21 of Form 1040 as “Other Income.”

Building on this topic, settlements oftentimes contemplate Emotional Distress and Mental Anguish. This type of settlement typically is not taxable, but again, the IRS has a few exceptions. The main exception is non-physical injury or physical sickness, i.e. a person was not physically harmed in the case. Those amounts are included as taxable income. A person can, however, reduce this amount by any payments made for medical expenses attributable to emotional distress and previous deductions for medical expenses that did not give a tax benefit. Again, those portions would be reported as “Other Income.”

Lost Wages or Lost Profits: A person may miss time from work. This situation usually arises in the context of an employment related case, such as discrimination based race, religion, or national origin. Those proceeds are taxable. Additionally, that part of the settlement is subject to employment tax withholding by the employer. The employee needs to report those proceeds as “Wages, Salaries, Tips etc.” on Line 7 of Form 1040. Another situation is lost profits from a person’s business. That portion of the settlement is again subject to self-employment taxes.  The IRS has offered guidance on it in Publication 334.

Loss-in-Value of Property: Quite simply, if a settlement is less than the value of the property, then it generally does not need to be reported on a person’s tax return. In rare circumstances, a property settlement is more than the value of the property. If it’s the case, then a person is required reported as a capital gain under Schedule D of Form 1040.

There are a few other areas that will occasionally come into play: Interest and Punitive Damages. Interest on a settlement is generally taxable obviously as “Interest Income.” It’s reported on Line 8 of Form 1080. Punitive damages, which are generally designed to punish or deter conduct, are also taxable income even if the punitive damages arose from a personal injury case. Much like the other areas, punitive damages are reported as “Other Income” on Line 21 of Form 1040

We hope this synopsis of settlements and taxability is helpful to you. If you would like more information on this topic or have any additional questions, then please feel free to contact me at kevin@patricktriallaw or 404-566-8964.