Whether a personal injury case can be reopened after a settlement depends on the specifics of the case and the terms of the settlement. Generally, however, the answer is no, a personal injury case cannot be reopened once it has been resolved or litigated and a judgment has been entered. In large part, this is due to the inclusion of a “disclaimer”. Most settlements and insurance companies require the plaintiff to consent to such a waiver before issuing the final payment of a settlement or verdict.
Here’s what you need to know about the liability waiver, the barriers to reopening a personal injury case, and why it is vitally important that you hire a competent personal injury attorney right away.
What is a “Disclaimer”?
A disclaimer is a clause in a settlement agreement that states that, assuming all terms are met, the defendant in the case will be released from all future liability related to the case. In other words, once the defendant pays the awarded amount, he cannot be sued for additional damages if, for example, the plaintiff discovers additional injuries or other compensable damages after the fact.
In most cases, the defendant or their insurance company will require the plaintiff to agree to a disclaimer before paying the plaintiff. In other words, even if a settlement agreement has already been signed that has been ratified by a judge; the payment to the plaintiff will depend on the plaintiff accepting a disclaimer. Very often, the waiver will be included as a clause in the settlement agreement. In some cases, even a verbal agreement can be valid as a disclaimer. Once the plaintiff agrees to the waiver, they waive their right to claim additional damages related to the case.
There are some circumstances in which a plaintiff can claim additional damages, even if a settlement has already been negotiated. If the plaintiff has agreed to the terms but has not yet signed a separate settlement agreement or disclaimer, they may be able to withdraw from the agreement and proceed to trial. If there are other parties who could become liable under the law for the plaintiff’s injuries but were not included as defendants in the initial lawsuit, the plaintiff can sue those third parties for additional damages. For example, if a car accident was due to both the negligence of another driver and the poor condition of a road but only the other driver was included as a defendant in the initial lawsuit, there may be a possibility of filing an additional lawsuit against the party responsible for the poor condition.
Finally, if the plaintiff agreed to an insufficient settlement based on inappropriate legal advice or if his attorney was negligent in handling his case, the plaintiff can file a professional negligence claim against his attorney. In other words, if you agreed to less than your due award because your attorney gave the wrong legal advice, you can sue your attorney for negligence.
You need a good lawyer representing you. According to the Queens injury law firm at Sullivan & Galleshaw, no two cases are alike. This is why you want a lawyer with a lot of experience. In all personal injury cases, the best way to maximize your likelihood of obtaining full compensation is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Many injury victims are concerned about the cost associated with hiring an attorney and think they can handle their cases without help. Some end up looking for what appears to be cheap legal advice.
However, this strategy can be expensive if the plaintiff receives compensation for much less than he should have received because of his attorney. And worse, the case cannot be reopened to claim additional damages. Once your case is closed, it cannot be reopened, so it is always a good idea to invest in a good attorney who can identify all the damages for which a legal claim would apply.