Can my Accident Injury Case be Reopened after it is Settled?
If you were injured in an auto accident and the injuries were moderate to severe, there is a good chance that you had to seek compensation from the responsible party’s insurer. This would either result in a settlement that is worked out privately between you and the insurer, or a personal injury lawsuit.
Sometimes, injury victims end up agreeing to a settlement that they later come to regret. For example, may be received what you thought was a good settlement early on after the accident, but later found out that your medical costs were significantly higher and your injuries were more extensive than you originally believed. When this is the case, you might want to revisit the case and see if you can get a higher amount.
Unfortunately, reopening a personal injury case after it has already been settled is not usually an option. When you and the insurance company agreed to a settlement, you were most likely required to sign a “release of liability”, which essentially means that once the defendant has paid the amount that was agreed to, they are released from any future liability for the accident.
This is one of the major reasons we always recommend that you at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before accepting any type of settlement offer from an insurance company. By having a skilled legal professional thoroughly assess your case, you will know what your legal rights and options are, allowing you to make the most informed decision on whether or not you want to take the offer.
Are there any Circumstances that Would Allow Me to Reopen my Accident Claim?
Yes. There are some limited circumstances in which you may be able to seek a larger amount in compensation, but they are few and far between:
- Technical Errors: This would refer to something like a drafting error in the settlement paperwork. For example, the insurance company agrees to pay you a settlement of $25,000, but the paperwork mistakenly says $2,500. If this happens, you can either have the error corrected or reopen your case.
- Failure to Perform: This would be a situation where the defendant agrees to pay you a set amount, say $25,000 (in keeping with the previous example), and you are supposed to receive payment within 10 days. If the defendant does not pay as agreed, then you could take legal action to enforce the judgment, or possibly reopen the case.
- Newly Discovered Evidence: You were awarded a judgment at trial, but new evidence has emerged that helps your case or damages the case of the defendant.
- Fraud: The other side did not negotiate the settlement in good faith and/or they used various tricks and tactics to defraud you out of the just compensation you were entitled to.
- Poor Legal Counsel: You agreed to a lowball settlement amount after receiving bad advice from your attorney. In this type of case, your avenue for recovering additional funds would be a professional malpractice claim against that attorney.
- Other Potential Defendants: Some auto accidents involve multiple vehicles and/or other parties that could share responsibility for the crash. For example, if you were hit by a large commercial truck, you may be able to hold the driver liable as well as the trucking company that employs them and the shipping company that loaded the truck, or one of several other parties. If there are other potential defendants, then you could open a new claim against these defendants in order to recover additional compensation.
It is important to note that, if you believe that you might have a potential legal avenue for reopening your accident injury case, you need to be mindful of the statute of limitations as well. In Florida, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is four years from the date of the injury. There are possible exceptions to this, but usually, if the statute of limitations has expired, your case will be thrown out of court.
Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett is Here to Help
Reopening an accident injury claim after you have already settled is usually not a viable option, and this is why you should always have your settlement offer reviewed by a seasoned attorney. However, there are some possible scenarios in which you might still be able to recover compensation for your accident, so it never hurts to talk to a lawyer about your case.
If your accident happened in the Pensacola area, Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett is here to help. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our office today at 1-888-219-4561.