Can a Personal Injury Case Ever Be Reopened?
The conclusion of your personal injury case may be something you welcome with relief. If your claim succeeded, you will finally receive a check to cover your health care expenses and other losses from an accident. What if, however, your injuries worsen after you settle? Can you reopen your personal injury case? The short answer is no, you cannot reopen a closed personal injury case. This is why it is critical to be sure the settlement accepted fully covers your past and future losses before signing a release form.
Do Not Sign a Release Unless You Are Sure
Every personal injury case ends with the plaintiff signing a release form. This is a legal document that officially releases the defendant from all liability or legal responsibility for the accident and injuries in question. Signing the release form means you have accepted the settlement and in return are releasing any right you may have had to file a lawsuit against the defendant.
Once you sign the release form, you will generally not be able to hold the same defendant responsible for the same injury – even if you discover later that you need more money than what the insurance company originally gave you. It is important, therefore, to make sure you obtain the right amount the very first time. Do this with help from a Richmond personal injury lawyer.
Determine the Full Value of Your Claim
A personal injury lawyer will evaluate your injuries and losses in a way that you can trust to be honest and accurate. Unlike an insurance claims adjuster, an attorney will want what is best for you rather than wanting to undervalue your injuries. A personal injury lawyer will list every single compensable damage in your case, along with amounts that accurately represent your lifetime of losses. You can count on the amount suggested being enough to pay for your past and future expenses.
Medical bills are a common damage category that is underestimated in an initial settlement, causing the plaintiff to try to reopen the case later. This type of award should pay not only for the medical bills you already have but for your future foreseeable medical care as well. This includes all projected doctor’s appointments, medical tests, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation and physical therapies related to the accident.
A lawyer can help you prove your future medical damages using existing medical bills and expert testimony. Similarly, your lost wage award should also account for future lost earnings. This will bridge the gap until you can return to work. If you can never go back to work due to a permanent disability, your lawyer can help you fight for a lifetime of lost future wages.
Discuss Your Settlement With an Attorney
Before you accept a settlement and sign a release form, bring the offer to an attorney for review. Most personal injury lawyers offer free initial consultations, where you can obtain legal advice at no charge or risk. A lawyer can review your case and accurately estimate its value. If you decide to hire the lawyer, he or she can help you negotiate with the insurance company for an amount that appropriately represents your past and future losses.
Do not sign anything given to you by the insurance company until you have obtained advice from an attorney. Accepting a settlement and signing a release waiver effectively terminates your right to hold the defendant or his or her insurance company liable for any further losses. If you discover after you sign a release form that you will need another surgery, for instance, you will have to pay out of pocket rather than having it paid for by the defendant. If you wish to protect yourself financially, be certain you are accepting a fair and reasonable settlement before signing a release form. Use an attorney for assistance.