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Posted On February 23, 2016 Personal Injury

Can a Personal Injury Case Be Reopened?

Once your case is closed, it’s closed for good – so make sure it’s handled correctly from the start!

It happens all the time – accident victims ask if it’s possible to reopen a closed case.

Their injuries are more serious than they thought, or they need to undergo a surgery they hadn’t planned on when they settled the case. They’ve been out of work longer than expected. They need more money to compensate them for losses that they hadn’t realized they had.

Unfortunately, we have to give them a disappointing answer – that once closed, a personal injury claim typically can’t be reopened, even with the help of a lawyer. No matter how good a reason these victims have for wanting the case reopened, it’s just not how the process works.

You only have one opportunity to pursue this case – no do-overs, no second chances. Don’t settle for less than you deserve, because you can’t ask for more money later.

Signing a Release

Release forms are a major reason why you can’t reopen a personal injury claim.

When you agree to a settlement, whether you’re handling the claim on your own or working with a personal injury attorney, part of the process includes signing a release. This form basically says that you’re releasing the defendant from any future claims related to this accident.

You’re signing your rights away in exchange for an agreed-upon amount of money.

signing an agreement

The problem is that when you do this without a lawyer, you have no way of knowing if you really got all of the money you deserve. You had no one looking out for your best interests, so you don’t know if you’re likely to face future problems because of your injuries. You might not understand exactly what you’re giving up when you sign a release and cash your check, because you don’t have someone who understands the process to explain it to you.

If you already signed a release, the chances that you can reopen your claim are minuscule. If you’re still in negotiations and haven’t signed anything yet, now is the time to get a professional on board.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

Unfortunately, too many accident victims wait too long to get a lawyer involved. They try to handle the claim on their own. They negotiate the best settlement they can get by themselves, and – often because they don’t know yet how serious their injuries really are – they’re settling for less than they deserve. They sign the release form and cash the check.

It’s only much later that they realize how little that check really covered, that they turn to an attorney. But by then, it’s too late. Signing that release closed their case for good, and even a professional can’t do anything to change it now.

case closed stamp

Even if you never sign a release, you can still lose your rights to pursue a claim by waiting too long to act. Personal injury claims are subject to statutes of limitations, or deadlines. If you haven’t resolved your case or filed a lawsuit by those deadlines, then you missed your chance to pursue a claim – even if you never signed a thing.

Your One Shot at Getting What You Deserve

Since you can’t reopen a case you agreed to close or one in which the statute of limitations has passed, you need to get the money you deserve the first time. You only have one chance to get the full amount of compensation, and to hold the careless person who hurt you responsible for what they’ve done.

How do you make sure you get everything you deserve?

  • Have a lawyer on your side. There’s a reason personal injury attorneys get on average 5 times more money than unrepresented accident victims get for themselves. We have the experience and legal knowledge to know what your case is worth and what evidence you need to win it.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute. Be conscious of the statutes of limitations and other deadlines that apply to your claim, and don’t wait until those deadlines are approaching to start working toward a resolution. If you’re getting a lawyer involved, do so as early as possible so you won’t have to worry about missing any deadlines. If you decide to try to handle the claim yourself, remember that it can take time to negotiate the best possible settlement – the insurance company won’t just offer it to you.
  • Be careful what you sign. Never sign a form or cash a check from the insurance company without carefully reading over what you’re agreeing to. If you have a lawyer, you have some protection, since there’s a professional looking over the paperwork you’re asked to sign. If you’re on your own, though, you could end up agreeing to give up all of your rights when you thought you were only settling one part of the claim. Remember, you can’t reopen a case once you’ve signed the release – even if you didn’t realize what you were signing.

Reading a form with a magnifying glass

When you only have one opportunity to get what you deserve, you realize just how high the stakes really are. Not getting enough compensation could mean that you’re unable to afford the appropriate medical care, or that your family faces a major financial hardship because of the accident.

Do yourself a favor and put your case in the hands of experienced personal injury lawyers from the start.

Have a lawyer evaluate your case for free today – call (856) 778-5500 now!