Can your personal injury settlement be reopened? A lot of people ask me if their personal injury lawsuit can be reopened. Some people ask if they can reopen a case they settled two years ago and some people are fortunate to ask before they settle their personal injury case.
A personal injury case can involve several different claims, but I am usually asked about the “pain and suffering” claim. The pain and suffering claim is just what it sounds like. This is the claim to be reimbursed for the pain and suffering caused by the injury inflicted upon you.
Barring some very rare instances, the personal injury claim for “pain and suffering” cannot be reopened once settled. If you have any thoughts about ever reopening your case, don’t sign a release to settle it. If a release has been fraudulently obtained, it can be voided, thus reopening your claim.
Where the value of the injury is greater than the insurance policy limit and the claim is settled for the full policy limit, I always obtain an affidavit from the insured stating that there was no other insurance available to pay for the injuries. The affidavit is a sworn statement signed by the insured.
Take for instance, a claim for a $300,000 injury which is settled for the full insurance policy limit of $100,000 and an affidavit is signed by the insured stating that there was no other insurance.
If it is later found that there was a $1 million blanket liability policy, the release may be voided and the case reopened because the person who was released from further liability lied in the sworn affidavit.
What happens when the insurance company commits fraud by making you believe that you are settling your property damage claim and you really signed a general release preventing you from later suing for personal injuries?
I was once successful in voiding a general release which a client signed for $1,500 even though the client was represented by an attorney. My client previously hired an attorney to recover money to repair his car and his lawyer foolishly allowed his client to sign a general release which was not limited to property damage.
Later, the client came to me to recover money for his injuries. I successfully argued that the insurance company fraudulently took advantage of my client. What makes this outcome extremely unusual is that my client was represented by an attorney at that time.