If you were injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence and then received a settlement as compensation for your damages, you probably can’t reopen the case. When your personal injury claim was settled between you and the defendant’s insurance company, you were likely required to sign a release of liability form that prevents you from bringing any future claims in relation to the same accident and/or injury. Most insurance companies won’t seal the deal until this release is signed.
Understanding Your Personal Injury Case
While every accident is unique to its own set of circumstances and every personal injury case is unique to its own settlement terms, you generally cannot reopen or relitigate your case once a judgment has been made. This is typically based on the insurance company’s inclusion of the release of liability mentioned.
Once your personal injury case has been litigated, you have very little recourse moving forward. If the settlement you obtain ends up not covering the damages you incurred, there’s simply not much you can do about it. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, slip and fall accident, or any kind of accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, it’s important to get your settlement right the first time by hiring an experienced California personal injury attorney at the outset.
The fact is that you generally get one chance with a personal injury claim, and the results can reverberate far into your future. Recovering from a significant injury is often a long and difficult journey that can require considerable resources to obtain your fullest recovery. In other words, obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled is far too important to leave to chance. Consult with a California personal injury lawyer today.
Understanding Your Release of Liability
The release of liability that you sign – once you have reached a settlement agreement in your case– is a legal clause or document that says you release the defendant from any and all future liability related to the specific claim. Therefore, as long as the defendant fulfills the terms of the settlement as they apply to him or her (generally this involves paying the settlement amount), he or she cannot be sued in the future for any additional injuries that may develop. If, for example, you discover that the accident caused you to suffer more injuries than you originally realized, the release of liability will keep you from pursuing any additional compensation for those injuries.
Insurance companies take these releases extremely seriously. In fact, even if a judge has signed off on your settlement agreement, the insurance company may not release your payment until you’ve agreed to release them from liability. Frequently, this release is included as a clause in the actual settlement. Sometimes, even verbally agreeing to the release is enough to waive your right to reopening a personal injury case.
If the Insurance Company Makes a Settlement Offer
If you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence, you are likely to be overwhelmed and may not feel like putting in the extra effort to consult with a personal injury attorney. While this attitude is understandable, it is not in your best interests. The fact is that insurance companies are in the business of making massive profits, and the way they manage to do this is by minimizing payouts. While you attend to the important work of regaining your health, allow your skilled California personal injury attorney to aggressively advocate for the compensation to which you are entitled.
Beware the insurance company that makes a speedy settlement offer before you’ve even had a chance to understand exactly how extensive your injuries are. While being offered a settlement amount may seem like an easy way to put an end to an unfortunate chapter in your life, it’s important to remember that you will be signing away your right to pursuing additional damages if your injuries should prove to be more serious than they first appear.
The fact is that certain kinds of injuries can become far more serious over time – and can even become chronic. If an insurance company is providing you with a settlement offer, do yourself a favor and consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney before you sign.
For Every Rule, There’s an Exception
You’ve heard the adage that for every rule there’s an exception, and this is never truer than when the law is involved. There are some circumstances that may allow you to pursue additional damages on your personal injury claim even if you’ve already negotiated a settlement:
- If you’ve agreed to the terms of the settlement agreement but haven’t signed it yet
- If you’ve signed the settlement agreement but it didn’t contain a release of liability – and you haven’t signed a release yet
If either of these applies to your situation, an experienced California personal injury lawyer can help.
When There’s Additional Responsibility
You were injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, and you’ve signed and received a settlement that included a release of responsibility. It may seem like that is the end of that, but there is another possibility. Oftentimes, more than one person or entity is responsible for causing an accident, and if your personal injury case involves more than one responsible party, you may have a path forward.
If, for example, you were injured in a car accident that was caused by another driver who has already settled with you, there may be other considerations. If you or the other driver’s car has a manufacturing defect that contributed to the accident, you may be able to pursue damages through the car manufacturer. Further, if a poorly maintained roadway played a role, you may be able to hold the county legally responsible. Again, every personal injury case has its own unique set of circumstances that will ultimately guide the course of action, so speak with a dedicated personal injury attorney as soon after your accident as possible.
Not so Fast: Assessing Your Damages after an Accident
You’ve been injured in an accident, and your medical bills are piling up. You’re not able to work, and you’re likely feeling the strain – and then some. Insurance companies understand your dilemma and aren’t above using it against you. An early settlement offer is likely a strategic attempt to minimize your compensation.
You, on the other hand, may view this settlement offer as a lifeline that can help you through the financial pinch. Doing so, however, is extremely shortsighted on your part. The fact is that the damages you suffer in an accident can have significant long-term financial, emotional, and physical consequences. Don’t be rushed into settling for less than what you’re entitled to.
Experience is Key: Consult with a California Personal Injury Lawyer
You’re dealing with a personal injury claim, and it’s very likely that you’ve never had to contend with anything remotely like this before. You aren’t, however, alone. An experienced personal injury attorney will help ensure that you’ve carefully considered your damages from every angle before proceeding toward a settlement. These damages can come in a wide variety of forms:
- Medical expenses, including emergency care; surgeries and aftercare; doctor, specialist, and therapist visits; prescription medications; adaptive physical devices; and more
- Lost hours and wages on the job
- Diminished earning potential
- Emotional pain and suffering
Additionally, it can take a considerable amount of time to fully assess the extent of the damages you’ve suffered. Don’t settle with the insurance company before you have a better understanding of what you need to travel the path toward your fullest recovery.
The Clock Is Ticking: Statute of Limitations
While it may take time to fully understand the extent of your damages, it’s also important to recognize that timing matters. The fact is that there’s a statute of limitations for bringing a personal injury claim in California. This means that, in general, you have two years from the time of the injury-causing accident to bring your claim. Although two years may strike you as more than enough time, plenty of victims are tripped up by the timing.
If you’ve been seriously injured, it’s only natural to focus all of your attention on regaining your health and strength; this takes time. Also, the longer you put off bringing your personal injury case, the more difficult gathering evidence in support of that case becomes. Your rights and your rightful compensation matter; consult with an experienced personal injury attorney sooner rather than later.
If Someone Else’s Negligence Leaves You Injured, Contact an Experienced California Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you have a personal injury claim, you need a skilled personal injury lawyer – your ongoing health and well-being could depend upon it.
The dedicated personal injury attorneys at Arash Law in California have the experience, skill, and determination to aggressively advocate for the compensation to which you are entitled. We’re available to help 24/7, so please don’t hesitate to call our office at (888) 488-1391 today.
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