Can You Reopen a Personal Injury Case?
When you sustain a personal injury, it raises a lot of uncertainty. An injury can limit your physical abilities and prevent you from working. You might not have completely recovered by the time you settle your case or go to trial, which means the cost of medical treatment and lost wages will be estimated instead of actual. Unfortunately, if you estimate wrong, it is almost always impossible to reopen your personal injury case.
When you settle your claim, you typically enter into a release agreement that waives your right to pursue any other claims related to the accident. If you go to trial, rules also prevent you from bringing another lawsuit for the same accident. The ideal time to speak with a California personal injury lawyer is as soon as possible. Consulting a professional before you settle your case provides greater reassurance that all of your losses are accounted for before you enter into a settlement agreement or reach the point where you are barred from filing another lawsuit.
What is a settlement release agreement?
A release agreement is a release of liability. It can be a clause in a settlement agreement or a self-contained contract that parties enter into during a settlement.
It is standard practice that a defendant or the insurance company paying on his behalf will require a plaintiff to sign a release agreement before providing the payment. The release is part of what is known as “consideration” – a bargained-for benefit that is needed to make a contract enforceable.
A typical release agreement will state that in consideration of the payment of the settlement funds, the plaintiff will release and hold the defendant and his insurer harmless. This means the plaintiff will not hold the defendant liable for the accident.
When can you pursue another claim for the same personal injury?
There are a few exceptions that may allow you to revisit a personal injury claim.
- Another party is also to blame – If more than one party was legally liable for your accident, it might be possible to pursue a claim against the other potential defendant. This is not always the case, though. If you signed a settlement release agreement, the wording may prohibit you from pursuing a claim against anyone else.
- Fraud – If the defendant, his insurance company, or their lawyers induced you to settle the case based on fraud, you may be able to contest the settlement and revisit the claim. This is not an easy thing to prove.
While revisiting a personal injury claim after it has been finalized is not the standard procedure, discuss any special circumstances with a lawyer.
What if I incur more damages after the settlement?
In most cases, you are limited to the amount at which you settled your case or were awarded at trial. Experienced personal injury lawyers assist their clients by planning for future losses when valuing a case.
To prevent under-compensation, your lawyer will help you prove the full extent of your injuries. This may mean working with experts who can offer an opinion as to how long your recovery should take, what future treatment is anticipated, how much additional pain and suffering you may experience, and the financial losses all of this will cause. You may even benefit from a financial expert who can calculate the value of lost work opportunities, the cost of lost promotions while you are recovering, and other often-overlooked consequences of your injury.
Talk with a lawyer about your case
Signing a settlement agreement will bind you into the future. With so much on the line, speak with a lawyer before you sign anything following an accident.
Los Angeles personal injury lawyers are here to help you pursue all avenues for recovery. At Ellis Injury Law, our team is dedicated to representing the rights of those in Southern California who have been hurt through another person’s carelessness. Call today to schedule a free consultation. We never charge a fee up-front; we only get paid if we recover compensation on your behalf.