Settling a personal injury lawsuit from a car or other type of accident usually means the end of the claim. But there are a few unusual cases where the lawsuit could be reopened. Whether this is an option in your case will depend upon the number of defendants, how many you settled with, and what the terms were. Just know that regarding each defendant that you settle with, you cannot file suit against that same party, most of the time.
After Release Is Signed, Case Is Over
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 claim against the defendant that you settled with. If you settled with the defendant before you filed suit, you cannot sue him or her.
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Settlement May Be Set Aside
About the only way a case can be reopened after you have agreed to settle is if you cannot agree with the other side’s attorney or insurance company about settlement terms.
When you reach a personal injury settlement, you need to sign a release before the other side will pay any settlement proceeds. Most car accident releases are straightforward. But sometimes the parties have a disagreement about the terms of the case release. If the dispute is serious, it is possible in a few cases 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.
Prior to 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.
But if you do hire a lawyer, the adjuster still may not renegotiate. In this case, 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.
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Settle Case During 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 also can say the settlement is cancelled and the lawsuit should proceed.
Attorney Gave Bad Advice
Even if your attorney gave you bad advice to settle, you still cannot back out of the settlement or file a new lawsuit against the person that you settled with. The lawsuit is over. The only option is to file a lawsuit against your attorney for mishandling the lawsuit. But this only can work if he or she committed a form of legal malpractice. This is a tough case to prove.
Other Potential Defendants
Generally, settling a claim against one defendant does not mean you cannot file a lawsuit against another defendant in the case. An example is when there are several parties in a car accident. But you should read the release carefully before you sign it. 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. Insurers never use this type of language because they want to protect other defendants. They want to be certain that the settlement means that you cannot sue that defendant or that insurer ever again.
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If you are in a situation where you are settling a case but are not happy with how it is going, you should contact a personal injury attorney. You can use Lawsuit Info Center to assist you in finding a skilled attorney in your area.