Sometimes in life, we make hasty decisions that we end up regretting. One situation when this can happen is while settling a personal injury claim. After getting injured in an accident or event that was caused by another party, finances are usually pretty tight, and injury victims are often anxious to get compensated.
Under these circumstances, it can be pretty tempting to accept an offer from an insurance company that may be for far lower than the claim is really worth. You might not realize it at the time, because the extent of the injuries someone suffers are not always fully known from the outset. As time goes on, however, injury victims sometimes discover that there are further complications that they did not know about previously, lengthening the recovery process and in some cases, causing them to be out of work indefinitely.
It is for these reasons that it is always best to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before accepting any type of settlement offer from an insurance company. By consulting with a seasoned attorney, you will be fully advised of your legal rights and options, so you can make the most informed decision on how you wish to proceed.
Can I Reopen my Personal Injury Case after it Has Been Settled?
In general, the answer to this question is “no”. Under most circumstances, a personal injury claim cannot be reopened after a settlement has been reached or a court judgment has been rendered.
Most settlement agreements include a “release of liability” clause, which stipulates that once the defendant pays the agreed amount, they are released from all future liability related to the claim. This means that you would not be able to sue the plaintiff for additional damages once the claim is settled.
There are some possible exceptions to this rule if certain specific circumstances apply:
- You Did Not Sign the Release Yet: If you have not signed the release of liability yet, it may be possible to reopen your case and bring it to trial. However, even without a signature, there may have been a verbal settlement agreement that could be interpreted as legally valid. As always, this would depend on the specifics of your case.
- Another Party Shares Responsibility for the Injury: Some injury cases involve several different parties. For example, in a truck accident, the driver may be directly responsible, but the trucking company that employs the driver might also be liable. Other third parties could share some of the blame as well, such as the shipping company that loaded the truck, the party responsible for maintaining the truck, and the manufacturer or supplier of a faulty vehicle part. If you have settled with one party and signed a release of liability, you might still have an opportunity to file a claim against other parties that were involved.
- Your Case was Dismissed without Prejudice: If the case went to trial and a judgment was rendered, then it is probably over and done with – unless as mentioned in the previous point there is another party you could go after. However, in the rare instance that a judge dismissed your case without prejudice, you may have an opportunity to refile it.
- You Received Poor Legal Advice: This is a difficult avenue to pursue, but it is worth mentioning. If you agreed to an insufficient settlement amount based on faulty legal advice you received from the attorney handling your case, you could have grounds for a professional malpractice claim against that attorney.
Be Aware of the Statute of Limitations
One very important thing you must be mindful of if you are wondering whether or not your personal injury claim can be reopened is the statute of limitations in the state in which your claim would be filed. In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is three years from the date of the injury. If you fail to file within this time limit, your case will most likely be thrown out of court, regardless of any of the other factors that have been mentioned.
Contact a Skilled and Knowledgeable South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer
In the majority of cases, reopening a personal injury claim after it has been settled or a judgment has been rendered is not a viable option. However, there are instances when it can be done. Whatever your circumstances, it is always best to have your case reviewed by a reputable attorney. In South Carolina, contact Peake and Fowler at 803-788-4370 or message us online for a free, no obligation consultation. We look forward to serving you!