In most cases, a personal injury claim cannot be reopened once a settlement has been agreed to by both parties. An injury can leave you with expensive medical bills and required time away from work. Because personal injury cases are rarely reopened, it is important that you are comfortable with the settlement offer before closing the case.
How Are Personal Injury Cases Closed?
Personal injury cases are usually closed in one of two ways, either the plaintiff accepts a settlement offer, or the case goes to trial. During trial, the case is decided either by a jury or the ruling judge. However, many injured individuals choose to settle because it saves them time and money by not having to go to court.
While a settlement can be a good alternative to the lengthy and often confusing Georgia trial system, a settlement can be a problem when the amount does not appropriately cover your damages.
Injured individuals might wonder if they can reopen their case after their injury turns out being more severe and costly than they originally expected. In most cases, a personal injury case cannot be reopened, especially if you agreed to a settlement offer prior. This is because, during the settlement agreement, the defendant’s lawyer likely had you sign a release of liability. If a case goes to trial, the outcome of the trial dictates if the case can be reopened later.
What is a Release of Liability?
A release of liability is a legal document that waives the other party of any additional liabilities after the case is closed. When you sign this form, you agree that the other party is no longer liable for your damages. It is often a good idea to discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer before agreeing to sign a release of liability.
Exceptions That May Allow You to Reopen Your Personal Injury Case
There are a few exceptions in which you may be eligible to reopen your personal injury case. These include:
- You have not agreed to a settlement offer yet: Until you sign the settlement offer, you have the right to back out of an agreement. This does get complicated if you have already provided a verbal agreement.
- The agreement is void: If the agreement contract contains any errors, then it may be considered void. This might include inaccuracies regarding the settlement amount, incorrect names, or other inaccurate details.
- Misrepresentation: In some cases, you may be able to file a professional malpractice case, if the legal guidance that you received was fraudulent.
- The responsible party failed to pay the agreed settlement: When the responsible party fails to make payment within the agreed upon timeline, it may void the prior agreement. The judge may simply require them to make the payment by a certain date, or in some cases, the case may be reopened.
Keeping the statute of limitations in mind is also important. The state of Georgia only allows you to pursue compensation through a personal injury claim for up to two years from the date of the injury. If the statute of limitations has already passed, then the state is less likely to reopen your case. Even if liability and negligence are clear in your case, you could lose your eligibility to file for compensation.
It is important to note, however, that the statute of limitations can vary, depending on the type of injury. For example, individuals injured at work, seeking compensation through workers’ compensation benefits, have just one year to file a case with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Additionally, the injured worker has to file a notice of claim within one year from the last day of their treatment.
What Alternative Compensation Options Are Available?
When an individual is injured, multiple people can be to blame. Just because you have settled with one of the responsible parties, does not mean that you cannot seek additional compensation from another responsible individual. If the first settlement offer did not cover your damages, then you may be able to seek additional compensation from another at-fault individual.
It is best to work with a personal injury lawyer who can help you explore your available legal options.
Prevent Mistakes in the Personal Injury Claims Process
Because it is not always possible to reopen a personal injury case, it is important to get it right the first time. A Georgia personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the laws, while also keeping your case within the state’s statute of limitations. It is also important to pay close attention to the value of your case. Work closely with your personal injury lawyer, considering the many ways the injury has affected your life.
Consider things like:
- Current medical costs: Doctor copay, medical treatments, medications, and emergency transportation
- Anticipated medical costs: Future doctor copays, medical treatments, medications for life, and specialist visits
- Rehabilitation costs: Household renovations, vehicle adjustments, home nursing, and a rehabilitative therapist
- Lost wages and benefits: Lost wages or work benefits from taking time off work to recover
- Diminished earning capacity: The decrease in your expected income, if your injury prevents you from doing the same work
- Pain and suffering: The physical and psychological pain that is often associated with an injury, as well as counseling services
Each individual is different, and the same injury can impact multiple people differently. This is why it is so important to carefully evaluate and consider each way in which the accident has and will affect you. Your lawyer should help you come up with an appropriate settlement that includes both economic and non-economic damages.