You were involved in a car wreck and you got pretty banged up. You ended up going to the emergency room to patch up some wounds, and you had some aches and pains that persisted for a while. A couple weeks after the injury, the insurance company contacts you with a settlement offer. It is not quite what you had hoped for, but it covers your medical bills and lost wages up until this point, so you decide to accept it and move forward.
A couple of months later, you realize that the aches and pains are still there, so you go back in to see the doctor. The doctor orders some additional tests and you discover that your injuries are more extensive than you first realized. What do you do now? Can you go back to the insurance company and renegotiate your settlement amount?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is generally “no”. Under most circumstances, you are not able to reopen an auto accident claim after it has already been settled. When you sign the paperwork from the insurance company, you are almost always signing what is called a “release of liability”. This means that, by accepting the settlement, you are waiving your right to come after the defendant for additional damages in the future.
It is largely because of situations like these that we always recommend speaking to an experienced auto accident lawyer whenever someone is hurt in a car crash, and especially before accepting any type of settlement offer from the insurance company. A skilled and knowledgeable attorney can thoroughly review your case and advise you of your legal rights and options, so you can make the most informed decision on whether or not to take the offer.
When is it Possible to Reopen an Auto Accident Injury Claim?
There are some limited circumstances in which it may be possible to recover additional compensation after you have already agreed to a personal injury settlement. These include:
- The Agreement is Not Signed Yet: Maybe you have agreed to the settlement, but you have not signed the paperwork yet. In this case, your accident injury claim may still be alive. However, be aware that even a verbal settlement agreement could sometimes be interpreted as legally valid. Check with an attorney to see if that would apply to your situation.
- Technical Mistakes: Maybe there was a drafting error with the paperwork. For example, they agreed to pay you a settlement of $30,000, but they put $13,000 on the document. In the case of a technical error, you could get the error corrected or you might have the option to reopen the claim.
- Contract Breaches: Maybe the defendant agreed to pay your settlement within 14 days, but they failed to deliver on the payment. Now they are acting evasive and making excuses. If the settlement was not paid in accordance with the terms and conditions of the agreement, then you could either take legal action to enforce the judgment or reopen your case.
- Fraud or Newly Uncovered Evidence: If the defendant concealed a material fact or piece of evidence or something new has emerged that no one was aware of when the settlement was agreed to, it might be possible to get your case reopened.
- Incompetent Legal Representation: Sometimes injury victims agree to an inappropriate settlement amount based on bad advice given to them by their attorney. If this happens, you might be able to file a professional malpractice claim against the attorney that represented you.
- Other Responsible Parties: With some motor vehicle crashes, there could be more than one party that shares responsibility for the accident. For example, it could have been a multi-vehicle crash, or maybe the accident was due in part to a faulty vehicle part. If a party other than the original defendant could have been at fault, you may be able to file a claim against that party as long as the statute of limitations has not expired.
Contact Gardner Law Firm for Further Assistance
Getting an auto accident claim reopened after you have already agreed to a settlement is usually not a viable option, and this is why you should always speak with an attorney before settling a claim with the insurance company. If you are in this situation, however, there might be some potential legal avenues available.
If your accident occurred in Gulfport, Pascagoula, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, or anywhere else in southern Mississippi, the Gardner Law Firm is here to help. Call our office today at (228) 900-9618 or message us online for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.