Settling a personal injury lawsuit from a car or other type of accident usually means the end of the claim. Once it has been settled, it is nearly always settled for good. In rare circumstances, though, some lawsuits can indeed be reopened. This occurs when the plaintiff discovers the accident injuries are worse than they thought. Other times, they realize they are missing much more time at work than they thought they would need. Some may require additional surgeries or expensive medical procedures.
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After Release Is Signed, Case Is Over
In these cases, many are frustrated to learn they cannot simply ask for more money from the defendant. If you settle a car accident lawsuit and sign a release of liability, the case is over. Even if you were to reject the settlement money, the case is over. If the case was in the lawsuit phase and you signed a release of liability, the case is over. Remember, you cannot reopen a lawsuit against the defendant with whom you settled. If you settled with the defendant before you filed suit, you cannot sue him or her.
After you agree to settle, the only way a case can be reopened is if you cannot agree with the other side’s attorney or insurance company about settlement terms. Sometimes the parties have a disagreement about the terms of the case release. If the dispute is serious, it is possible for the plaintiff or the other side to back out. The procedures in this situation depend upon whether you settled the case before or after the lawsuit was filed.
Before the Lawsuit
If the car accident claim was settled before the lawsuit was filed without an attorney and you do not wish to sign the release, now is when you want to get a lawyer. You will not want to take this case any further by yourself. The insurance adjuster will not change his mind based upon what you say without an attorney. Even with a lawyer, the insurance company may still refuse to negotiate. In such cases, you can either sign the release and take the money or file a lawsuit and hope that the judge will let you back out of the case settlement and/or change the release.
During the Lawsuit
Your attorney and the defense attorney will wrangle over the terms of the release. Most of the time, they resolve differences and devise a release that your attorney will have you sign. If they cannot do so, they will report the dispute to the judge and allow him to make the call. The judge may order you to sign the release, or order that it be changed. He can also order the settlement to be cancelled and the lawsuit should proceed.
When asking how does a lawsuit get reopened, it’s important to consider the other potential defendants you could possibly hold responsible for your damages. Settling a claim against one defendant does not mean you cannot file a lawsuit against another defendant in the case. For example, if you’re involved in a multi-vehicle accident, you may have the right to pursue legal action against multiple at-fault drivers. Before pursuing this angle, though, be sure to go back over any releases you might have signed. Releases often say that in return for taking the settlement money, you agree to give up potential claims that you may have against anyone for the injuries noted in the case.
Get the Help You Deserve
People often wait too long until they get an attorney at the table. They attempt to save money and handle the claim alone. They negotiate what they think is a good settlement, often because they do not understand how serious their injuries are. They are signing on the dotted line for far less than they could get.
But did you know that even if you have not signed a waiver, you still can lose your legal rights to sue? There is a statute of limitations in most states that limit the timeframe in which you can file a personal injury lawsuit. If you do not resolve your case or file a suit inside that deadline, you will miss your chance to file a suit.
Because you cannot reopen a case that you agreed to close, or cannot sue when the statute of limitations passes, you should get the money that you are entitled to on the first go around. You only have this one chance to hold the negligent person responsible for the injuries they caused you, so you should make it count.
To protect yourself and your case, take these three steps:
- Have a trusted personal injury attorney at your side. A personal injury lawyer can get up to five times as much money from a case than a typical layman can get alone. You can use our website to find a good attorney in your city.
- Never wait until the last minute to file a lawsuit. Know what the statute of limitations is for filing a personal injury lawsuit in your state. In many personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of injury. In the case of wrongful death, the statute of limitations could be two to four years from the date of death.
- Beware of what you sign. You should not sign a form or cash a check from any insurance company without reading it over carefully, and ideally having an attorney review it for you. If you are representing yourself, you could end up surrendering your rights when you sign the waiver document.
In most cases, you have just the one chance to get the money you deserve from your accident. Your lawsuit cannot be reopened. In a case with serious injuries and loss of work time, getting a good settlement could be the difference between getting the medical care you need and going without. It is not unheard of for people to settle a case for pennies on the dollar. Then, their injuries turn out to be far worse, and they can not only not pay their medical bills – they lose their home!
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