What legal advice could save you tens of thousands of dollars and can make or break a legal matter you are involved with? That advice is very simple, but you would be surprised the number of times that it is ignored. What is this great legal advice?
Read the documents you are about to sign. Groundbreaking, right? While it may sound simple, everyone has probably been guilty of failing to do so. Personally, I have been guilty of ignoring this practice. How many times have you signed an online agreement by clicking “I agree” without ever reading the document? Did you really read each and every provision of the last rental car agreement you signed?
I recently thought of this issue while purchasing a used car and signing the financing documents. At this time, I cannot remember many of the details of the agreement (which I did read in full), but I likely agreed to some of the following things: Who I can/cannot hold liable if certain events occurred, where a lawsuit would have to be filed if there was a legal dispute, which states law would apply to any legal dispute, whether I waived any right to a jury trial, and whether I agreed to binding arbitration to settle any disputes.
While you may believe that such provisions are just “boilerplate” language in every contract someone paid an attorney to draft those provisions to ensure that this “boilerplate” language is favorable to the person asking you to sign the contract. Don’t expect to be able to sign a contract and later argue that such provisions should not be enforceable. Such an argument is likely a sure loser in a court of law.
Also, if you have reached an oral agreement, but the written contact does not contain all of the terms and conditions that were agreed upon, you should ensure that the contract is revised to include such provisions to accurately reflect the understanding of the parties. Assuming that you could later argue that the contract meant one thing, even though it said another, will likely not give you the legal outcome you desire.
Finally, if you are involved with a dispute with another party, it is probably a good idea to have an attorney review any document that settles the dispute. For example, if you are renegotiating a loan with a lender, it is likely that the lender will ask you to waive any claim that you may have against that lender. You can rest assured that the lender has had an attorney draft and review any agreement that you sign, so why wouldn’t you want to do the same?
The best way to avoid potential legal issues is to read the documents you are signing to ensure that they accurately describe the terms of your agreement and that you agree to all the terms, not just the “important” ones. Doing so can increase your chance of prevailing in a legal matter and reduce any legal fees incurred in doing so.