Many people believe that once a personal injury claim is settled, you no longer have the right to file a lawsuit against the party responsible for your injuries. While this is often true, there are other times when you may still be able to file a lawsuit.
Our trusted personal injury lawyers in Cincinnati at O’Connor, Acciani and Levy have created a quick guide to explain when you can and cannot file a lawsuit after agreeing to a settlement.
When You Cannot Sue After Settling
When you settle an accident claim, you will most likely be asked to sign a written agreement that releases the at-fault party from any further liability regarding the accident. This agreement is made in exchange for the money that the insurance company promises to pay to settle the case. If the insurance company could still be sued after you collect compensation, it would have no incentive to settle.
Insurance companies and other defendants will insist on a signed release form. This includes your own insurance company and the insurance company that represents the at-fault party.
Typically, the language of the agreement stipulates that you are accepting the settlement money as full satisfaction of all claims. This language assures the insurance company that you will not continue to pursue compensation against it for claims based on the same accident.
This waiver is a legally binding contract. By accepting the settlement money, you promise not to pursue further claims against the insurance company or defendant. The release still applies even if you later learn that your claim was worth more, if your injury was worse than you expected or you accumulate additional damages.
The law imposes the duty on you to carefully review contracts before you sign them. This is why you need to work with an experienced personal injury attorney before you sign any settlement agreement. An attorney can help you understand the terms you are agreeing to.
When Can You File Suit After Settling?
The general rule is that you cannot file suit after settling your injury claim. However, there are exceptions. For example, you may be able to still sue after settling if you can prove that the defendant acted in a fraudulent or coercive manner. If you believe that your settlement negotiation was entered into in bad faith, discuss this information with your personal injury lawyer.
Another exception to the rule prohibiting suing after settlement is if you are suing another person. When you negotiate with one defendant, he or she is likely only interested in his or her own level of liability. However, if there is another defendant that has responsibility for the accident, you may still be able to sue the other defendant. In some situations, you may not be aware of the involvement of a second defendant.
For example, in a car accident claim, you may have settled the case against the at-fault driver. You may discover later that a defect from a manufacturer was partially to blame. In this situation, you could file a lawsuit against the manufacturer, as long as you do so before the applicable statute of limitations.
What Should I Do Before Settling?
Because you may be barred from suing after you settle your claim, it is important that you take certain steps before you accept any settlement offer. Some of these steps include:
- Seek Medical Attention – After an accident, it is important to go to a doctor or hospital to have your injuries diagnosed by a professional. This helps establish the connection between the accident and your injuries. A medical professional may be able to estimate the possible expenses that you will have going forward.
- Consider the Effects on Your Job – If you were not able to return to work because of your injuries, try to pinpoint the extent that the injury has impacted your work. An expert witness may be necessary to evaluate your lost earning capacity.
- Gather Documentation – Collect medical bills, medical documentation, work records, photographs and other evidence to support your claim.
- Hire an Attorney – An attorney can carefully review your claim to help ensure that your settlement covers all of your current and future expenses. He or she can carefully review any release form so that you have a complete understanding of the rights you are forfeiting.
Contact An Experienced Lawyer For Assistance
It is of the utmost importance to seek advice from a personal injury lawyer before you enter into any settlement.
Our team of experienced personal injury lawyers has been assisting injury victims and their families for more than 20 years in a wide variety of cases. We can review the terms of any settlement agreement before your claim is closed and advise you whether a particular offer provides fair compensation.
We provide a free consultation to discuss your case. The consultation comes with no obligation and you will not pay any money to us unless you recover compensation for damages.