Can a Lawsuit Be Reopened After Reaching a Settlement?
After reaching a settlement, some injury victims may question whether the compensation offer they agreed to is full and fair. Other victims may wonder, for various reasons, if it is possible to reopen a lawsuit after reaching a settlement agreement. Unfortunately, once you agree to a settlement, it is rare that you would be able to reopen a lawsuit. That said, once a victim has an offer, why would he or she even want to reopen a lawsuit? When could filing for more compensation be possible? Below, High Stakes Injury Law discuss questions victims may have about settlement agreements. Our Las Vegas personal injury lawyers encourage you to seek legal help when seeking compensation in a claim. Every case is different, so it is always better to get information that applies to your unique situation.
When Does a Settlement Become a Binding Agreement?Reaching a settlement can take weeks to months, or even longer in more complicated cases. Even when both sides reach a verbal agreement, the offer may only be binding once both parties have signed off on it. That said, when a settlement becomes binding can vary, depending on where your case is filed. Some jurisdictions may require the settlement to be signed by both parties, submitted in court and approved by a judge. Others may only require both parties to sign a release of liability form. If you hire an attorney, it is a good idea to have them explain more specifically what may apply in your situation.
Is a Verbal Offer From the Insurance Company Binding?It is important to clarify that any verbal offer the insurance company may extend is not binding without your agreement. Sometimes insurance companies may try to mislead injured victims to try to get them to accept a lower offer. This can work if the victim does not know his or her rights. For example, if the insurance company misleads you by saying the first offer that they make is the only one you will get. Having an attorney handle your case helps to protect you from these and other tactics the insurance company may use to try to devalue your claim.
Is it Possible to Reopen a Lawsuit After Reaching a Settlement?It is highly unlikely that you can reopen your lawsuit after reaching a settlement. However, there are rare exceptions when a plaintiff may legally reopen a lawsuit after reaching a settlement, including if the:
- Victim never officially signed off on, or agreed to, the settlement offer
- Defendant made a mistake – or intentionally misrepresented certain facts
- Settlement agreement was forced, made under duress or fraudulent
What if Multiple Parties Were at Fault for Your Accident?If multiple parties were at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, you could have another option for seeking compensation. Rather than reopening a lawsuit after reaching a settlement, you may have grounds for a separate lawsuit. For instance, say you were involved in a multi-vehicle collision. While the other driver may have been negligent, there could be other contributing factors to the crash as well, such as:
- Poor road design that contributed to the crash in some way
- A third driver who was distracted and therefore struck your vehicle in the crash scene
Why Victims May Want or Need to Reopen a Personal Injury LawsuitThe biggest reason that an injury victim may want to reopen a lawsuit is if he or she feels the settlement they received was too little. Sometimes this may happen if their injury suddenly gets worse or they find out they will need surgery in the future. Unfortunately, this is not generally a valid reason to reopen a lawsuit. The time for considering future treatment is before you agree to an offer. It is important that victims ensure they are being offered a full and fair settlement. This can help them to avoid paying additional costs out of their own pockets later. However, the time to do this is before you agree to a settlement.
How Can I Be Sure I Am Being Offered a Fair Settlement?It is difficult for injured victims to be certain any offer they receive from the insurance company is a fair one. Injury victims do not have the knowledge or experience that attorneys and insurers have after years of handling claims. You can be sure the insurance companies will always look for ways to try to underpay a claim. That is why they are unlikely to offer you a fair settlement without a fight. Hiring an attorney can be an important step in pursuing a fair settlement. Some of the potential benefits of hiring an attorney is that he or she can:
- Protect you from insurers who would try to get you to settle quickly and for a low payout
- Prevent the insurance company from trying to settle your claim before you reach your maximum medical improvement
- Pursue a fair offer by taking all your damages into consideration