After you have settled your personal injury case, you may experience new symptoms of your existing injuries or notice new injuries you believe stemmed from your accident. Or, you may not feel satisfied with your settlement amount. Can you reopen a personal injury case once it is settled?
What Does Settlement Mean?
In legal terms, a settlement is a resolution made between two conflicting parties about a legal case. Often, settlements result in the payment of financial damages to address specific losses incurred by one party. These payments are usually made by the other party or their insurance company and may be made directly to you or your insurance company.
For personal injury cases, insurance companies or courts may consider losses due to any or all of these factors:
- Financial losses associated with medical bills
- Financial losses experienced as a result of the loss of employment or loss of future income in the case of those left permanently disabled and unable to work
- Damages related to physical pain and suffering
- Damages related to mental or emotional pain and suffering
While your case was being argued, whether it was in court, between insurance companies, or between your attorney and your insurance company, you had the opportunity to discuss your losses in depth. Hopefully, you had the opportunity to list, in detail, every injury and symptom caused by the accident as well as any long-lasting psychological effects. You should have had the opportunity to provide detailed medical bills, statements of lost income, and other documentation to prove your losses.
When your case reached a settlement, you and the defendant likely signed a document that accepted the settlement. In addition, this form releases the defendant and his or her insurance company from any future claims made from the same accident or injury. If you have received your settlement, the insurance company received the signed release, since most companies will not send the settlement without it.
Can You Reopen Your Case?
If you signed this release form, you cannot reopen your case under most circumstances. The release prevents you from adding to your settled claim or making a new claim for the same incident or the same injury. The matter is, quite literally, settled in the vast majority of cases.
Even if you did not sign a release form – you likely did, though you may not remember doing so – there was likely a verbal agreement between the two parties. Contact your personal injury lawyer to ask about such a verbal agreement. Alternatively, contact your insurance company.
Rare Cases Exist
Rarely, you may be able to file a new claim for the same incident. Multiple parties may have contributed to the incident or accident; if you have existing injuries you may be able to pursue a claim against the other parties. Similarly, if there were other factors involved, such as a malfunctioning vehicle, a faulty product, or an ill-maintained road, you may be able to pursue a claim against the parties responsible.
However, the release you signed with the original party may include language that prevents you from filing further claims for the same injury. Or, the wording may exist that prevents you from filing claims for other injuries from the same incident. If you have read your release form carefully or believe that a verbal agreement could allow you to pursue further claims, the possibility is worth some discussion.
Please keep in mind that this is not official legal advice for your particular claim or your particular case. An attorney should only provide official legal advice with all of your case’s information. With this in mind, consider speaking with your personal injury attorney to discuss the details of your case.