Can you reopen a personal injury case after reaching a settlement?
Personal Injury - January 13, 2020
Generally speaking, you cannot reopen a personal injury case after it was settled. Personal injury settlements are designed to be final. If you and the defendant agreed to the settlement amount, you likely signed a form that released them or their insurer from any future claims arising from that incident.
Most insurance companies and defendants will not proceed with a settlement until the plaintiff (the injured party) signed such an agreement. Even if you did not sign a release, there may have been a verbal agreement in place that has the same legal weight as a written and signed agreement.
There may be a few unusual circumstances in which you can re-open a personal injury case after signing a settlement agreement; an attorney experienced in these nuanced matters can guide you through the process.
Circumstances for reopening a personal injury case
If you’re in one of these situations, then contact an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer to explore if you can reopen a personal injury case:
- The case had multiple defendants; you settled with one but not the rest
- Your settlement was in bad faith, or there were shady insurance practices
- You were coerced into signing a much lower settlement than you were entitled to
- Your health significantly deteriorated after signing the initial settlement
Procedure for reopening a personal injury case
If your case was a job-related injury, you can file an Application for Adjustment of Claim Form with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Otherwise, your lawyer will file the appropriate motion to reopen the case, but you’ll need to prove the grounds for reopening it, which can get tricky.
Limitations and challenges
Insurance fraud or deliberate deception is difficult to prove. While you cannot reopen a personal injury case settled in bad faith, you can hold the guilty insurance company responsible in a separate case if you were coerced into accepting a lower settlement.
Whether you can reopen a personal injury case with multiple defendants after settling with one depends on the terms of your settlement and release. Some releases have clauses prohibiting plaintiffs from pursuing additional claims related to the incident.
Proving that your health deteriorated after settling requires much of the same medical documentation that was needed in your initial case. You may also have to prove that your current state of health could not have been foreseen when agreeing to the settlement.
Weighing the options: Settling or going to trial in accident injury cases
Most accident injury cases are settled out of court and do not go to trial. If you settle a case with the defendant, that means that there will be no trial against that particular defendant. Your attorney will determine whether your case should be settled out of court or go to trial.
A settlement will almost always result in the victim receiving compensation faster, but it may not result in the maximum compensation for your injuries. On the other hand, trials can be unpredictable, and the victim may not achieve the desired outcome.
Importance of seeking legal advice for reopening a personal injury case
The laws for reopening a personal injury case are nuanced, and the burden of proof is significant. Not all personal injury attorneys may have the resources to prove bad faith or significantly worsened injury, or to file a claim with multiple defendants.
However, Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates has the resources and experience to make sure you are fairly compensated for your losses, even after your personal injury case is closed.