You were seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, and you settled with the insurance company privately or through a lawsuit. After everything, you realize that the compensation you received is not enough. You have higher medical costs and long-term disability. Now you wonder if you can reopen the case and seek further compensation.
In most cases, you cannot re-open a lawsuit or file a lawsuit after settling a claim privately. However, there are unique circumstances that may allow you to revisit the issue. It is best that you consult with an attorney if you need to reopen a lawsuit or you would like to file a private lawsuit after setting out of court. Your attorney can review the terms of the settlement and the completed case to see if you qualify for further compensation.
Can a Lawsuit be Reopened after a Settlement?
When you settle with a defendant, even outside of court, you can typically never file a lawsuit that has been settled against the same party. While this might be defeating news, realize there are specific legal components behind this, and they are designed to protect you and the defendant.
Even though you may not be able to file a lawsuit against the same party, there is the potential for seeking damages from a third party related to the case.
Signing a General Release
Before insurance companies give you a settlement check, they require that you sign a general release. A general release is often the biggest roadblock when it comes to filing a lawsuit after a settlement or reopening a suit that is closed. When you agree to your settlement amount with the insurance company, you must sign the release.
The release states that you release the defendant and their insurance company from any future claims or costs associated with the incident. Therefore, you have signed away your right to seek further compensation by accepting the settlement.
Once you sign a release of liability, you are legally bound to that release and the courts will not open the case again.
If You Oppose the Waiver
Sometimes, an accident victim will try to negotiate a settlement on their own. They will receive a settlement from the insurance company and then be presented with the general release of liability. At this point, they may change their mind and decide that they do not want the amount offered. Because the liability waiver has not been signed yet, the case is still active. However, anyone in this position should speak with an attorney immediately to resolve the dispute and get a fair settlement.
The Long-Term Consequences – and Why an Attorney Should Review the Offer
Most of the time, insurance companies take advantage of victims who try to negotiate a settlement without an attorney. They know that you will not read the long and intricate clauses of an agreement. They know you want your check today. Regardless of how desperate you are financially, you must wait before you sign that liability waiver. The moment you sign it, you cannot turn back. Once you cash that check from the insurance company, you will receive no further compensation – regardless of how much more the injuries end up costing you.
That is why you need an attorney not only to negotiate a settlement, but to review that general release and ensure you are getting the right settlement for future damages – not just the ones you have paid out-of-pocket thus far.
Under What Circumstances Could You Receive More Compensation?
Sometimes you can reopen a lawsuit or file a lawsuit after an insurance claim is closed. However, these situations are extremely rare. The only way that is feasible is when you cannot agree to a settlement amount.
For example, the insurance company offers a settlement amount and requires that you sign a release. However, after you sign the release, the amounts go back to negotiations and the insurance company will not agree to the settlement amount. If the dispute becomes serious enough, one party might back away from the settlement and the procedure will move forward – possibly going to court.
Other times you have situations that could arise and give you the opportunity to reopen your case. Here’s a couple of examples.
What to do When Your Attorney Gave You Bad Advice
If the attorney you worked with gave you bad advice, you might wonder if that would allow you to reopen your case. While you cannot open the case against the insurance company or person that caused your injuries, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the attorney for that bad advice through a legal malpractice lawsuit.
Other Potential Defendants
Sometimes other parties were at fault that were not known at the time or simply not named in the lawsuit. Once you settle a claim against one defendant, you are not barred from doing so against other potential defendants.
However, you need an attorney to review your general release first. Some general releases state that you give up all potential claims against anyone in the accident. This means you cannot file a lawsuit against third parties who were not part of the original negotiations either.
If you have other parties who are responsible, you may be able to bring a claim against them so that you can collect the additional damages you need. However, this is a complicated process, and it will be harder to prove your case and justify your claim – especially if your first settlement was sizeable.
Speak with an Attorney about Your Injury Claim before It Is Too Late
The only way to ensure you get the right settlement the first time is to work with an attorney that is qualified to help you. In most cases, once the settlement is over, you cannot get further compensation. Avoid finding yourself in a situation where you need money but cannot request more. Contact Jacobs Law, LLC from the start.
Our advocates fight for your right to compensation, and we will not rest until our clients receive the money they need for lost wages, injuries, pain, suffering, and more.
Schedule your free consultation with our team today by calling our office or by completing the online contact form.