Most personal injury claimants anxiously await the ends of their cases. Some jump at the chance to settle as quickly as possible, without making sure the amount received adequately covers past and future losses. Settling quickly can be dangerous, however, as once a personal injury case settles, it is almost always impossible to reopen it.
At the conclusion of your personal injury case, before the defendant or insurance company will pay out a settlement, you will receive a liability release form to sign. This is a legally binding contract stating that you are giving up all further rights to sue the defendant for the same injury or accident in exchange for the amount agreed upon. This document is important for the defendant, as it protects him or her from future liability lawsuits. As the claimant, it is your duty to make sure you are satisfied with the settlement offered before you sign a release form.
Do not rush into signing a liability release form. If you regret signing later, you cannot take it back. Except in extremely rare circumstances, the courts will not allow you to reopen a personal injury case once you have signed the release form. You will be legally bound to the settlement agreement. While you may feel pressured to sign quickly, finish your case and receive a check, it is critical to take your time with negotiations. Double-check that you are recovering a fair amount for both past and future damages before signing.
If you do wish to renegotiate or reopen a settled case, you will need to prove to the Texas courts that you have a valid reason for doing so. You will need to make a motion to the court with a legal reason, such as fraud during your case, a clerical mistake or new evidence. Only if you or your lawyer can prove legal grounds for reopening a case will you be eligible to set aside a judgment and renegotiate for a different amount.
Another option for financial recovery may be a new personal injury claim against a different defendant. This will only be possible if someone other than the existing defendant played a part in causing your injury, such as the defendant’s employer, a product manufacturer or a property owner. An accident investigation can determine if more than one party is to blame for your injuries and losses.
If your accident case involves multiple responsible parties, signing a release form to settle with one party may affect your ability to recover further compensation from a different party. This will depend on the language of the settlement release form. Some releases prohibit you from pursuing additional claims related to the same accident – even if you wish to bring a claim against a different defendant. Others allow you to pursue further compensation as long as you do not list the paying party as a defendant.
Do not risk settling for less than you deserve for an accident or injury in Texas. In most cases, you will not be able to renegotiate after signing a release form, even if you realize the defendant should have paid more for your losses. The best way to ensure a fair and full settlement the first time around is by hiring an attorney to negotiate for you.
An experienced Dallas personal injury attorney can help you accurately calculate both past and future losses. If you have a serious injury, your lawyer can estimate the future value of your medical expenses and other costs to make sure you do not settle for less than you need. If you do wish to reopen your case, a lawyer can help you file a motion with the courts. Work with a lawyer from the very beginning of your case for the most successful claim possible.