Can I Re-Open a Personal Injury Case that Settled?
Question: I was injured in a car accident. I did not have a lawyer and I settled the case myself. Now, I have all these other medical bills coming in that I didn’t know about. Can I re-open the personal injury claim with the insurance company even though I settled the case?
Robert’s Answer: Typically you cannot re-open a settled case. That is because once a case is settled, the injured claimant signs a full and final release of all claims. These releases are usually very broad and have the effect of releasing the responsible party of all further responsibility for the accident. However, there may be some exceptions. For example, there may be other parties that may be responsible for the accident that were not included in the release, such as the other parties employer if he was on the job at the time of the accident. Another example of another responsible party might be the owner of the car if the driver had borrowed it. Additionally, if the injured party was a minor at the time of the accident, then there may be ways to re-open the case once the minor turns eighteen.
Make sure you get the advice of an attorney and do not wait until the statute of limitations expires. Otherwise, you will lose your rights even if you could get around the release. You just have to look at all the circumstances surrounding the accident and the previous settlement. If there was a release agreement signed, then read it very carefully and see if all potential parties and claims have been included in the release. If the release covers all parties and claims, then re-opening the case would be unlikely.