Can a Car Accident Claim be Reopened?
You suffered injuries in a car accident and filed an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer. The insurance company makes a quick offer to settle your claim, and having money in your hand is an attractive prospect. You are watching the medical bills pile up, and you lost income from missing work, so you are behind on your bills. You decide to accept the offer to pay as many bills as possible. Later, you realize you need more medical care than you realized. You are out of work again following another surgery, and now you have more unpaid bills because of your injuries. You call the insurance company to ask for more compensation, and the representative informs you that it is not possible to reopen your claim to seek additional funds. This is a situation that many people are in, as they accept a low insurance offer without consulting with a car accident attorney
. The unfortunate reality is that once you settle a claim, you usually cannot reopen it, even if you realize it is far less than you deserved or needed. Never accept a settlement of an injury claim without legal representation and guidance. A settlement offer might seem great to you, but your lawyer then informs you that your losses are much greater than you imagined. The right legal help is critical in these situations.
Release of Liability
When you accept an insurance settlement, you must sign a settlement agreement
. This agreement contains many provisions you might not thoroughly read or understand without an attorney. Your focus is on getting your check, so you might sign without realizing all you agree to. This settlement agreement contains a release of liability. By accepting the settlement, you give up your right to hold the insurance company liable for anything else regarding your accident and injury. When you do this, it means you cannot reopen your claim. This settlement agreement is a legally binding contract. You cannot get around it by saying you didn’t read it or understand the terms. The law assumes you will not sign anything without taking steps to understand the agreement, so claiming ignorance is insufficient to get around the release of liability under contract law
Rare Situations When You Might Reopen a Claim
As with most legal principles, there are some exceptions to the rule that you cannot reopen an insurance claim. The following are some situations that might arise
#1. You didn’t sign an agreement
Perhaps the insurance adjuster made a verbal offer, and you verbally accepted it, but you haven’t reached the paperwork stage of the settlement yet. You realize you should not accept anything without a lawyer, so you want to take back your acceptance. In this situation, speak with a car accident lawyer about your options. The defendant may try to legally enforce your verbal agreement even if you never signed a release of liability
. An attorney can explore your options to continue negotiating for a higher settlement.
#2. Errors in the settlement agreement
Insurance companies make mistakes, and even if they use the same settlement documents repeatedly, material errors in your agreement may render it invalid. For instance, if you agreed to accept $32,000, the person filling in the blanks might transpose some numbers and enter $23,000. In this situation, you might back out of the agreement altogether, and you should discuss your options with an attorney right away.
#3. The insurance company did not uphold its end of the bargain
When you signed the contract, the agreement stated the insurance company will issue the check within ten days. Over 20 days pass and you still haven’t received anything. You try to call the insurance representative, but they are not answering or returning your calls. If this happens, contact a car accident lawyer right away. Not only can a lawyer help you get your settlement, but they might even reopen your case to obtain higher compensation because the insurance company failed to perform its obligations under the agreement.
#4. Other parties share liability
Because you filed the insurance claim without a lawyer, you likely assumed the driver was the only liable party. You settled your claim with the driver’s insurer and realized it was insufficient. A car accident attorney can assess whether there might be other responsible parties in your case. For example, if the driver was on the job when they caused the crash
, their employer should be vicariously liable for the negligence of the employee-driver. Your lawyer can help you file a claim against the employer to seek the rest of your damages.
#5. An underinsured motorist claim
Sometimes, you have to accept a lower amount than you need because the liable driver did not have enough insurance coverage to cover your losses. If you have underinsured motorist coverage (UIM)
, you might seek the remainder of the damages from your policy. However, you generally cannot accept a low settlement from another insurer and later start the UIM claim process. Instead, you need to inform your insurance company of the situation ahead of time and obtain its consent to accept the settlement from the at-fault party. This is yet another reason why you should call a car accident lawyer before you settle any insurance claim stemming from a car accident.
Connect with a Car Accident Attorney Right Away for More Information
The sooner you have a car accident attorney handling your claim, the more confident you can be that you will receive total compensation for your losses. Insurance companies like to take advantage of unrepresented parties, as they can convince such parties to accept low settlements. Insurers know you cannot reopen your claim - and they also know you likely do NOT know this. Instead of risking leaving substantial money on the table, take the time to consult with a car accident lawyer
for free as soon as possible.