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Can I Reopen A Personal Injury Case If My Condition Worsens Over Time?

Posted December 27, 2023 | Personal Injury Blog

Reopen your personal injury case if condition worsens

When facing medical bills and other expenses after an accident, recovering financial compensation as soon as possible is likely one of the first things on your mind. After all, receiving the compensation you are entitled to is an essential part of moving forward.

However, the healing process for two given injuries is never the same and can, at times, be unpredictable. What happens if you accept a settlement in a personal injury case but then your condition gets worse? Can you recover additional compensation from the liable party?

A free consultation with a personal injury lawyer at our firm can help you better understand your options depending on the unique circumstances of your case. In this article, we will consider how settlement release agreements work, options that may be available for additional compensation, and when to file a personal injury claim.

How a Settlement Release Agreement Works

The goal of a personal injury claim is to compensate the victim for losses that were caused by another person’s negligence. These losses can be economic, such as lost wages and medical bills – or they can be non-economic, such as pain and suffering or emotional damages.

In nearly all cases, when a settlement is agreed upon by both parties, the injury victim is asked to sign a release agreement. This legally binding document states that the injury victim (plaintiff) will not pursue further action against the liable party (defendant) for the same incident.

This agreement will name the involved parties and outline the incident as well as the terms of the settlement. By signing this document, the plaintiff agrees that he or she has read and understands the settlement details and agrees to release the defendant from any further legal actions. 

The exact language of the settlement agreement may vary; some of these agreements state that the document releases the defendant from “known or unknown” losses resulting from the incident, including those that may appear after the agreement is signed. Release agreements may also include language about confidentiality terms surrounding the incident and related settlement. 

Even if a person decides to settle without legal representation, it is always a good idea to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer before signing any documents. 

Options for Additional Compensation After a Settlement

Once a settlement release agreement has been signed, it is difficult – in many cases impossible – to recover additional compensation, even if a medical condition deteriorates and requires continued care. 

There are certain situations where a person may be able to recover additional compensation after a settlement. One such situation is when there is more than one liable party. 

Depending on the language of the release form, the only person who is released from further legal actions is the defendant named in the settlement. However, there may be other parties who can be held liable for the incident as well. 

For example, the at-fault driver likely holds the primary responsibility for the injuries caused by a car accident. In many cases, though, other factors were also at play. Did insufficient maintenance by the municipality play a role in the crash? Was there a malfunction in a vehicle safety mechanism that contributed to the severity of the injuries?

Identifying all potentially liable parties ensures that the accident victim recovers the maximum amount of compensation available for his or her losses. 

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit – When Is the Right Time?

When deciding when to file a lawsuit or accept a settlement in a personal injury case, there are two main factors to understand: the statute of limitations and the time needed to heal. 

Understanding the statute of limitations

While you may have heard about a “statute of limitations” in legal dramas on TV, you may be unsure what that term means. A statute of limitations restricts the time allowed to file personal injury lawsuits. 

The exact amount of time depends on the state where the incident occurred, the type of injury, and whether the injury victim was a minor. In many states, such as Texas, the time limit is 2 years for most personal injury cases. 

This statute of limitations does not mean that a settlement must be reached within this time. It refers to the amount of time an injured person has to file a lawsuit. Once this process begins, it can take longer than 2 years for a settlement to be awarded.

Understanding the time needed to heal

While the statute of limitations means that there is a time limit to file a lawsuit, there are some advantages to not accepting a settlement right away. This is especially so in the case of serious injuries. It is often difficult or impossible to accurately predict when (or if) a person will recover, as well as the level of permanent damage. 

In addition, some injuries do not appear right away. The full extent of injuries and the necessary treatment may take months to be fully understood. 

An insurance company may put pressure on the injured victim to accept a settlement as soon as possible, knowing that the person is likely in a financially vulnerable position. However, as we have seen, accepting a settlement before knowing the full extent of damages caused by the incident can bar a person from recovering full compensation for his or her losses. 

Get the Answers to Your Questions With a Free Consultation

After an accident, it is common to have lots of questions, not knowing what to do. You may hear people say, “Act now – don’t delay!” In a way, that advice is sound; waiting too long could mean you lose your chance to recover anything at all. 

However, the reality is that there is a difference between acting right away and signing something right away. It is best to get reliable legal advice as soon as possible to ensure that your interests can be properly represented. 

At Fielding Law, we understand that you need answers and someone on your side. We are happy to offer a free consultation to help you better understand your legal options. For peace of mind when making your choice about legal representation, contact us today at 877-880-4090.

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Text edited by Mitchell Fielding, a personal injury lawyer and partner at Fielding Law. Mitchell is known for his hard work ethic, friendly personality and dedication to the law. You can find out personal injury law offices in Taylorsville, UT and Mesquite, TX.