We’re often asked about reopening cases, which typically means either reopening a case that was turned down, or reopening a case that has been settled or closed.
The answer to the first question is easy: if there’s new evidence or anything that changes the circumstances of your case, yes, you can have an attorney agree to take it after it was originally turned down.
The answer to the second question is a bit more complicated. Simply put, if your case has been settled, then the chances that it can ever be reopened are extremely small.
Why? And how can you avoid that fate?
Why a Settled Case Can’t Be Reopened
When you settle a claim for a personal injury case, you are coming to an agreement with the defendant. Part of this agreement means signing a release which basically tells the other side you won’t make any future claims against them for the same incident.
In other words, you’re agreeing to put the matter to rest – for good – in exchange for a certain amount of money.
This is exactly what you want to have happen if you’re getting the most money you possibly can. Unfortunately, people sometimes deal with the other side on their own – which means they often get taken advantage of by insurers and their lawyers.
Or, they realize later that their injuries were more serious than they originally thought, and they’ll need more money to pay for bills and lost wages. But the case has already been settled and more money won’t be coming.
The end result is that you get less than what you deserve – and you can’t ever get more.
Why It’s Important to Work with a Lawyer
A lawyer can help make sure you get the maximum amount possible when you settle.
There are many reasons for this. For starters, lawyers understand the law. They know the ins and outs of your case and how a jury might see the circumstances of your accident. Settlement amounts are based in part on what kind of damages are likely if the case were to go to trial, and it’s impossible to evaluate that without the help of an attorney.
Another reason is because your attorney can use negotiation skills honed through years of practice to get the best deal. If you’re buying a car, and you want to negotiate with a car salesman for the best deal, you’d be better off getting another car salesman to negotiate for you, right? Well, it’s the same with attorneys – a lawyer can do a better job than anyone else at negotiating with other lawyers.
What You Can Do to Help Yourself
The first thing you should do to help yourself if you’ve been involved in an accident is to avoid signing anything. If you are offered anything from the insurance company, don’t sign it without letting someone else see it first. And definitely don’t sign a release.
Next, be timely. There are statutes of limitations involved and you don’t want to run afoul of those. Don’t wait until the last minute to get a lawyer involved, because cases take time to prepare before they are settled or go to trial.
Finally, talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. He or she will be your best resource and your strongest advocate. They’ll steer you through a complicated process with skill, experience, and confidence.
Your case can’t be reopened after it’s been settled, so to get the most you can before you sign on the dotted line, talk to an accident lawyer – it’s your best bet at becoming whole again.