When someone is injured because of the negligent or reckless actions of another party, medical bills tend to pile up and all the time missed from work can make finances pretty tight. Under these circumstances, it is understandable that you would want to settle the case and get your compensation check fairly quickly.
The problem is that the defendant’s initial settlement offer is usually pretty low, and oftentimes, an injured person finds that their injuries are significantly worse than they originally thought. This causes many plaintiffs to wonder whether it is possible to reopen a personal injury case once it has already been settled or closed.
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is generally “no”.
Once you accept a settlement offer, you are usually required to sign a “release of liability”, which releases the defendant from any additional damages that they may be liable for resulting from your injury. So, if the defendant has already paid you a settlement check, this most likely means that the case is closed.
All of that said, there are some limited circumstances in which you might still be able to reopen your personal injury case. These include:
- You Have not Yet Signed the Settlement Agreement: Maybe you are at the point where you have agreed to a settlement, but you have not yet signed the paperwork. If this is true in your case, there might still be time to back out of the agreement. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes even a verbal settlement agreement can be interpreted as legally valid, so you might still be bound by whatever you agreed to.
- The Settlement Document has Clerical Errors: The settlement document might have drafting errors that are significant, such as listing the amount as $13,000 rather than $30,000. When there is a technical error, you can get the mistake corrected or it might be possible to reopen the claim.
- You Settled the Case based on Poor Legal Advice: If you agreed to an insufficient settlement amount because of bad legal advice, you might have grounds for a professional malpractice claim against the attorney that represented you.
- There are Other Defendants you Could Go After: With some personal injuries, there are multiple parties that could be held responsible. For example, if you were injured in an accident with a commercial truck, you might be able to file a claim against the trucking company and the cargo/shipping company in addition to the driver. If there are other defendants you could go after that were not part of the original settlement you received, then you might be able to open up a case against them.
Be Aware of the Statute of Limitations
Even if one of the above-mentioned instances applies to you or you have another avenue toward reopening your personal injury claim, the statute of limitations could be an additional barrier. In Georgia for example, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years. If the two-year time limit has passed in your case, then it will most likely be thrown out of court. So, if you are thinking of trying to reopen a personal injury claim, be mindful of how close you are to your state’s statute of limitations.
Avoiding Personal Injury Settlement Regret
It is questions like whether or not a personal injury case can be reopened that underscore the importance of speaking with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney before accepting any type of settlement offer. Insurance companies will often imply that you do not need a lawyer, and that you will get paid the same amount of compensation whether you retain legal counsel or not.
The truth is that in a large number of cases, there is no way of knowing how much compensation you are entitled to early on in the claims process. Additional symptoms may emerge, and you might need to see the doctor several more times, go in for tests, etc. before you know for sure how bad your injuries are.
So, if you have been injured in an accident that someone else was responsible for, it is in your best interest to at least talk with an attorney to have them review your case and inform you of your legal rights and options. This way, you can make the most informed decision on whether it is in your interests to accept any kind of settlement offer, and whichever path you choose, you can do so without regret.
Speak with an Experienced Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer
As we have discussed, most of the time a personal injury case cannot be reopened after the claim has already been settled or closed, but there are a few possible exceptions. If you have any questions about your Georgia personal injury case, Ross Moore Law is here to help. We can examine your case and help you determine if there is a way to reopen it and what steps would be involved.