If you sustained severe injuries in an accident due to the wrongful actions of another, you likely want to obtain fair compensation for the harm and losses you endured. Unfortunately, for many victims going through this ordeal, this does not always happen, especially when they settle their claim without waiting until they reach maximum medical improvement or verifying that the settlement offer was fair to them
As a result, many individuals wonder whether they can reopen their cases to seek further compensation down the road. That is why we have prepared the following blog post. In it, we will go over everything you need to know about these car accident claims, when plaintiffs can reopen cases, and how an experienced car accident attorney can help you through this challenging legal process.
The Car Settlement Process
In general, most car accident claims resolve through settlements, which usually involve the injured individual and the insurance company negotiating an agreement to end their dispute.
While most people think this process simply involves submitting a claim to the insurance company and receiving a check to cover their losses, it involves much more. The settlement process usually requires a lengthy investigation from both sides before negotiations can begin.
If these negotiations lead to an agreement, everyone will sign a release form, closing the case. However, if you can’t settle, your attorney may proceed to trial and fight for maximum monetary damages.
Factors That Can Influence Your Settlement
When it comes to the settlement process, no set formula or guidelines will help you determine exactly how much money you can receive from the other side. This is usually because there are just too many factors that can impact your claim and the amount of money you can obtain.
These factors include:
- The severity of your injuries and whether you sustained a permanent disability
- The type of medical treatments you will need now and in the future
- The extent of your pain and suffering
- The defendant’s culpability
- The credibility of the evidence and witnesses presented
- Your lost income
- The ability to do normal daily activities
For these reasons, following your accident, it may be in your best interest to work with a knowledgeable car accident attorney. While your attorneys cannot guarantee a specific financial award following your accident, they can review these factors, determine how they affect your claim, and prepare strong legal arguments to fight for the settlement award you deserve.
Beware of the Insurance Companies and Their Settlement Offers
Although most people believe insurance companies as there to help them after an accident, this is rarely the case. Insurance companies, like other companies, want to make money. That is why they will try to do everything they can to either deny your claim or settle it quickly for as little as possible.
As a result, when individuals file a claim after an accident, it can become a complex process that leaves the individual confused about what to do in these situations and whether they got compensated fairly. That is why it is not a surprise that when the process is complete, there are many people left feeling they have been unjustly compensated and want to reopen the insurance claim to ensure they get the money they need.
Why You Cannot Reopen a Motor Vehicle Accident Claim Once It Is Settled?
If you went through the claims process and signed an agreement with the insurer, you likely will not be able to reopen a motor vehicle accident claim. This is because, during this process, you probably have signed release forms that set the terms of the settlement and finalize liability payments. Plus, signing these forms also means you agree that your claim has resolved, and you give up your right to file a lawsuit against the insurance company.
These agreements are generally signed in exchange for money for the harm and losses you endured in the car accident. Because the release is a legally binding document, courts will usually uphold them.
For these reasons, before you sign any release forms, review them with an experienced car accident attorney. These lawyers can verify whether the insurance company is trying to provide you with a lowball offer and if there is money you can still obtain.
When Is It Possible to Open a Car Accident Claim?
Although opening up a car accident claim is typically not possible, it can happen in limited circumstances. The following are some situations where it may be possible for you to reopen your car accident claim.
There Was a Technical Error
Suppose a settlement agreement contains technical errors that, for example, incorrectly indicate your settlement award. In that case, you may either correct the mistake or get out of the agreement since the legally binding contract contains substantial errors that make it invalid even after you signed it.
There Is No Signed Agreement
If you committed to a settlement agreement verbally but did not sign any forms, you still may have a chance to get out of it. However, this situation can get complicated because, in some cases, a verbal agreement may be considered a valid agreement.
For these reasons, if you agree to a settlement offer but have not yet signed the appropriate paperwork and want to get out of the deal, you should reach out to an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer as soon as possible. These legal professionals can determine whether this agreement is valid and whether you can get out of the deal.
The Settlement Agreement Was Not Honored
If the other side refuses to honor the settlement agreement terms, you may reopen your case. For instance, if the other side promised to pay you within the month, this deadline passes, and you still do not have your money, you may reopen your claim.
There Are Other Liable Parties
Suppose your motor vehicle accident involved numerous at-fault parties. In that case, you may be able to file a claim against the other defendants for additional damages, even if you already settled with one of the wrongful parties. These other parties can share responsibility for the accident and your harm and losses.
The Insurance Company Did Not Handle the Claim in Good Faith
Insurance companies need to follow certain protocols when handling your claim and do it in good faith. If the insurance company did not treat you fairly during this settlement process or lied, you may be able to file a legal claim against them.
For instance, consider the following bad faith tactics the insurer may try:
- The insurer knowingly misrepresented the facts or did not disclose details about your insurance policy
- The insurer refused to communicate with you, or there was a lack of communication
- The insurer refused to negotiate a settlement amount
- The insurer delayed the process of your claim by making you do things such as file repetitive documentation
- The insurer tricked, bullied, or pressured you into accepting a low settlement offer
If you believe the insurance company acted in bad faith, reach out to a skilled car accident lawyer. These attorneys can handle these complex situations, figure out if the insurer acted in bad faith, and help you reopen your car accident claim if possible.
Actions to Take After an Accident to Help the Car Accident Settlement Process
After a car collision, talking to people at the scene is probably the last thing you want to do. However, if you want to help the settlement process and protect your legal rights, following an accident, take steps to improve your chances of getting the money you need.
Following a car collision, you should call 911 right away. If you cannot do this yourself, have someone at the scene call on your behalf. This is not only the fastest way to notify medical personnel and the authorities of the crash and your injuries, but it is also one of the quickest ways to get your collision on record.
Plus, once the police perform their investigation, they can document their findings in their police report. Your lawyer can use this police report to help them in the settlement negotiation process, so they can go after the maximum compensation you are entitled to.
Take Pictures and Videos of the Accident
Snap as many pictures and videos of the incident as possible.
This should include photos of:
- Your visible injuries
- The cars involved in the collision
- The damage to your car
- The weather conditions at the time of the accident
- Traffic signals near the area
- Road defects
- Other elements that contributed to the accident
However, if you cannot obtain this evidence, do not worry. When you work with an experienced car accident attorney, these legal professionals can handle this investigation process for you and try to obtain the evidence needed to show the insurer the extent of the situation and your injuries.
Keep Documentation Following the Accident
After the collision, you want to keep all the bills and receipts related to the accident to show the damages you endured. This is a significant factor that the insurer will use to determine the offer they provide you.
Speak to Witnesses
Try to look for witnesses following the accident. These individuals can provide your lawyer with helpful details regarding the incident and offer testimony to help prove your claim.
See a Doctor
Even if your injuries do not appear to be very serious, you should still get to a doctor right away. Some injuries, such as brain trauma, can take some time to manifest. Yet the longer you wait to get this condition checked out, the more debilitating it can become. Plus, delaying getting this treatment can impact your claim, as the insurance company will try to argue that because you did not seek medical care, your injuries are not that serious or a result of a subsequent incident.
How Can an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Help You Fight for the Financial Damages You Deserve?
If a car accident harmed you, secure all the compensation you need. Fortunately, when you hire a knowledgeable and skilled car accident lawyer, you will not have to take on this legal fight on your own. Rather, these attorneys can help you determine whether your claim can be reopened and help ensure you only accept the settlement you deserve.
To get you these outcomes, these lawyers can:
- Evaluate your legal claim, determine if you have a valid legal case, and help you figure out the legal options you can pursue.
- Go over your questions regarding the settlement process and what you should expect during these legal proceedings.
- Investigate the car collision and work on gathering the evidence needed to show fault and damages.
- Hire experts to prove your claim, such as accident reconstructionists, doctors, and financial specialists.
- Take on the settlement negotiations and fight for the fair settlement offer you need.
- Take your case to trial and go after maximum damages if the other side is unwilling to provide you with the money you deserve.
- Determine if you can reopen your car accident claim after accepting a settlement amount.
Although you cannot always open a car accident claim after it settles, reach out to an experienced car accident lawyer today and find out your legal options and how a legal professional can help you.