You got injured in a vehicle crash that was caused by someone else. You had to miss work for an extended period of time, and you have racked up some doctor and hospital bills as well. Finances are getting tight, and the daily pain from your injury is starting to take both a physical and emotional toll.
In the midst of all this, the last thing you want to do is go through a long and complicated insurance claim process, so when the insurance company calls to talk about a settlement, you are ready to listen. They give you an offer that seems lower than what you believe you should get, but because you want to put this incident behind you and move on, you decide to accept the offer.
As time goes by, you notice that your symptoms are getting worse and not better. You go back to the doctor and you are sent for more testing. The additional tests reveal that your injuries are more extensive than you originally thought, and it may be quite a bit longer before you are able to go back to your job. At this point, you wonder if it is possible to reopen your personal injury claim.
The short answer to this question is, usually “no”. When you receive a personal injury settlement, you are typically required to sign a liability waiver that prohibits you from taking any further legal action against the at-fault party for the same incident. That said, there are a few limited circumstances in which you might still be able to pursue compensation for a personal injury after you have received a settlement.
When Can you Reopen a Personal Injury Claim after a Settlement?
Here are some circumstances in which it may be possible to get your personal injury case reopened once you have settled:
- Unsigned Agreement or Clerical Errors: Maybe you are still at an early stage of receiving your settlement where you have not yet signed the paperwork, or the paperwork contains a significant technical error. For example, the settlement amount is supposed to be $53,000 and it says $35,000. In either of these situations, it might still be possible to get out of the settlement and reopen your claim.
- Fraud: If, for example, the insurance company for the at-fault party acted in bad faith by defrauding you or misrepresenting information, then you might have a possible basis for reopening the claim. This is a very difficult legal avenue to pursue, however, so make sure you speak with an experienced attorney before considering this route.
- Other At-Fault Parties: In some situations, there are multiple parties that may have contributed to your injuries. For example, if you were hit by a commercial truck, you may be able to file a claim against the driver, the company that employs them, and the shipping company that overloaded the truck, which caused it to crash. Or if you got hurt at work because of a faulty piece of machinery, you might be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer, distributor, or other parties within the product’s supply chain.
What to Do Before Accepting a Personal Injury Settlement Offer
Taking a settlement for your injury seriously limits your legal options, and you should not take such an offer without a great deal of thought and consideration. First of all, be sure you have sought appropriate medical treatment and that you have gone in for any tests and exams that your doctor has recommended. Also be sure to follow through on your doctor’s orders and any prescribed treatments with your recovery plan.
Second, never agree to a settlement without first talking with an experienced personal injury lawyer. The effects of your injury may go far beyond just the direct monetary losses like medical bills and lost earnings. There are intangible losses to consider as well, such as pain-and-suffering, psychological distress, and diminished quality of life.
An attorney will be able to thoroughly review your case, consider all the ways the injury has affected your life, and advise you of your legal rights and options. This way, you will be able to make the most informed decision on whether or not it is in your best interests to take the settlement, or if you should go a different route.
Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C. is Here to Help
If you or a loved one suffered injury because of the negligence or reckless actions of another party, you deserve to be fully compensated. But if you have already taken a settlement, you may not have any further legal recourse. Still, it never hurts to have your case looked at by one of our attorneys. For your free consultation and case assessment, message us online or call our office at (800) 497-0234 or (800) 296-6979.