Imagine you’re injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault. You file a claim against the at-fault driver and their insurance company. Soon after, the insurance company offers you a settlement, and you accept, believing that the settlement amount will more than make up for your injuries.
But a few weeks later, you’re in severe pain. You visit your doctor, who tells you that you suffered a latent injury in the car accident. It’s going to be an expensive injury to treat, and now the settlement you accepted doesn’t look so promising.
Now you’re faced with the question: Can a lawsuit be reopened after settlement? Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to reopen a personal injury case after accepting a settlement from the other party. Keep reading to learn why.
Release of Liability
As the old saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” This is certainly true of legal documents in personal injury cases, one of the most important being the Release of Liability form. If you don’t read this form carefully and understand what it means, you could be doing yourself a disservice by forfeiting your legal options.
Most personal injury cases are settled outside of court, so the legal process ends when you accept a settlement. To receive your settlement, you’ll need to sign a Release of Liability form which must be signed by both the Releasor (injured party) and the Releasee (at-fault party).
This form is a legal contract between both parties that ensures the injured party will not sue the at-fault party for past or future injuries or losses. Also known as a General Waiver, Legal Release, Waiver of Liability Agreement, or Liability Waiver form, this document releases the at-fault party from all liability and prevents you from taking further legal action.
Always read documents carefully before signing them, and have a Chicago personal injury lawyer at Langdon & Emison review the contract to make sure your interests are represented.
Can a Lawsuit Be Reopened After Settlement?
There are a few exceptions to the waived liability rule. Here, we’ll discuss two options for an out-of-court settlement, and one for cases handled in court.
Out of Court
- You may be able to sue the other party post-settlement if you can prove that they and their insurance company entered into the settlement in bad faith and defrauded you.
- You may be able to sue if multiple parties were involved in the accident (unless you sign a form releasing all parties from liability).
- You may be able to sue if the other party’s insurance company or attorney made a mistake. For example, if they accidentally write $10,000 instead of the agreed-upon $100,000, you can have the mistake corrected or reopen the case.
Since most personal injury cases are settled out of court, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to reopen your case after settlement. However, depending on how the judge closed your case, you may be able to reopen and sue the other party.
If the judge closed “without prejudice,” you will be able to reopen the case. That’s because “without prejudice” means the case is not dismissed forever, whereas “with prejudice” bars the injured party from ever reopening the case.
To add another layer of exceptions, workers’ compensation is a different story than other personal injury cases.
Unless you specifically waive your right to pursue future compensation, it’s easier to reopen a work-related injury case than other personal injury cases in Illinois.
You may reopen your workers’ compensation case if your injury gets worse within 30 days of the settlement approval date. Keep in mind that most workers’ compensation settlement contracts include a waiver of your right to reopen, but they don’t always include this stipulation.
An Attorney Will Help You Understand Your Options
Although there are exceptions, settlements are nearly always final. Before you sign anything, have your personal injury lawyer look over the contract. They’ll make sure the terms align with your interests, and they can ask that the other party and their lawyer return with another contract if it is unsuitable.
An experienced personal injury lawyer at Langdon & Emison will work to calculate everything that is owed to you for your injuries. We get our clients what they deserve. To learn more, contact Langdon & Emison today at (312) 855-0700.