Can a Car Accident Claim Be Reopened?

Can a Car Accident Claim Be Reopened?
car accident lawyer in the Bronx

Settling a car accident claim usually ends the legal process. Both parties agree on a compensation amount, which closes the case. This settlement agreement often includes a clause that absolves the insurance company from any further claims related to the accident, essentially finalizing the agreement. However, you may reopen a settled case under specific conditions.

Considering the difficulty of negotiating a fair settlement, seek legal assistance from a car accident lawyer in the Bronx. People who hire lawyers for their car accident claims often achieve more favorable outcomes than those who try alone.

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Why Do Settlement Agreements Typically Mark the End of a Case?

When parties reach an insurance settlement, it usually closes a case. This is primarily because the settlement includes a release of liability clause. Such clauses are standard in insurance settlements and essentially mean that you agree not to pursue any further claims against the insurance company for the same incident in exchange for the settlement amount.

This arrangement is key for insurance companies. Their primary goal is to resolve claims as efficiently and economically as possible. By securing a release of liability, they avoid facing additional claims from the same incident, ensuring a final resolution to the matter. This is not just about providing compensation out of goodwill. It's a strategic decision to manage risks and costs effectively.

Insurance companies often propose settlements early in the claim process. They do this before the full impact of your injuries is clear. This strategy is deliberate. Settling early aims to minimize the amount they pay out. However, accepting an early settlement without knowing the full extent of your injuries or damages can lead to too little compensation.

When Can You Reopen a Settled Car Accident Claim?

Car Accident Claim

After settling a car accident claim, many people might wonder if there's ever a scenario where they can revisit their case. Usually, finalizing a settlement closes the case. However, there are exceptional circumstances under which a car accident case might be reopened.

One potential scenario for reopening a case is if significant errors in the settlement documentation, such as incorrect figures or typos, affected the settlement amount. In such cases, you can correct the error without fully reopening the case, but in certain situations, it can lead to renegotiation or even cancellation of the settlement.
Other situations that can lead to a case being reopened include:

  • Non-Performance by the Defendant: If the settlement agreement specifies a timeframe for payment and the defendant fails to meet this obligation, it might be possible to reopen the case due to their failure to perform as agreed.
  • Unfinalized Settlements: The case technically remains open when a settlement was verbally agreed to but not formally signed. While verbal agreements can sometimes be binding, not having a signed document may keep the case open.
  • Claims Against Additional Parties: Discovering that another party bears some fault for your damages opens the door to a separate claim, not reopening the original settlement with your insurance company. However, this is contingent on the specifics of the release you signed; a broad release can potentially limit your ability to pursue claims against other parties.

Regardless of the severity of injuries or financial need, the desire for additional compensation is not a valid reason to reopen a settled case. The case is generally over once a claimant accepts a settlement and receives compensation.

Exceptions primarily involve:

  • Procedural errors.
  • Breaches of the settlement agreement.
  • New developments that were not part of the original claim.

Hiring a skilled car accident attorney can provide the guidance to understand when a case might be reopened and how to effectively approach the situation.

Exploring Your Compensation Options Following a Car Accident

After experiencing a car accident, several types of insurance coverage can cover everything from medical expenses to vehicle repairs.

Here's a breakdown of the main options available to you:

  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage: Often included in auto insurance policies, this type of coverage provides for your medical expenses and lost income due to injuries from a car accident, regardless of who was at fault.
  • Comprehensive and Collision Coverage: These optional coverages cover vehicle repair or replacement costs. Comprehensive coverage applies to damage from theft or natural disasters, while collision coverage is for damage resulting from a crash.
  • Bodily Injury Liability Coverage: This coverage is essential if the driver responsible for the accident has it. It aims to cover both your economic losses, like medical bills and lost income, and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: This optional coverage is beneficial if the at-fault driver has insufficient insurance to cover your damages. It can compensate for your losses, including situations involving uninsured drivers or hit-and-run incidents.

Each option offers a pathway to securing compensation for the losses you've sustained in a car accident. Understanding the specifics of your insurance policy and the types of coverage you have can be incredibly beneficial in the recovery process.

Understanding the Scope of Compensation in Car Accident Claims

Compensation in Car Accident Claims

A car accident claim aims to address the full range of losses experienced by victims, ensuring they receive compensation that reflects the severity and extent of their suffering and financial burden.

Below, we expand on the various types of compensation available to people in car accidents.

  • Vehicle Repair and Replacement: This includes the cost of repairing your vehicle to its pre-accident condition or, in cases where the vehicle is a total loss, reimbursement for its market value before the accident.
  • Medical Expenses: Compensation can cover all medical-related costs, from emergency treatment immediately following the accident to ongoing medical care, surgeries, medication, and rehabilitation services necessary for a full recovery.
  • Long-term Care and Support: For injuries resulting in permanent disabilities, you may seek compensation for long-term healthcare needs, including specialized equipment, home modifications, and support services to assist with daily living.
  • Lost Wages and Income: If your injuries prevent you from working, compensation can include lost income for the time missed at work and any future lost earnings if you cannot return to your previous employment or must take a lower-paying job due to your injuries.
  • Loss of Earning Capacity: Beyond immediate lost income, a claim can address the reduction in your ability to earn in the future, factoring in lost career opportunities, advancement potential, and benefits.
  • Pain and Suffering: Pain and suffering is a non-economic damage that compensates for the physical pain and discomfort endured as a result of the accident and subsequent injuries.
  • Emotional Distress: Car accident claims also recognize the psychological impact of the event and injuries, offering compensation for emotional and mental suffering, including anxiety, depression, and trauma.
  • Loss of Enjoyment and Quality of Life: For many, the repercussions of an accident extend beyond physical and financial losses, affecting their ability to enjoy life and participate in hobbies, activities, or daily routines they once found fulfilling.
  • Disfigurement and Scarring: Compensation can be sought for the emotional and psychological effects of permanent scars or disfigurement, acknowledging the distress and social challenges these physical changes may cause.

Understanding the comprehensive nature of compensation available through a car accident claim can help you pursue the full extent of damages you are entitled to. By recognizing the broad spectrum of possible losses, you can better advocate for your needs and secure the financial support necessary for your recovery and well-being.

Car Accident Settlement Options: Lump-Sum vs. Structured Settlements

Structured Settlements

When resolving a car accident claim, victims typically receive compensation through a settlement, which can significantly aid in covering the costs associated with the accident.

Understanding the differences between the two main types of settlements is key. They are lump-sum and structured settlements, and understanding them can help you make informed decisions that align with your financial needs and recovery journey.

Lump-Sum Settlements

Lump-sum settlements provide the entire agreed-upon compensation amount in a single payment. This option particularly appeals to many car accident victims due to the immediate access to funds it offers.

A lump-sum payment can be especially beneficial for addressing urgent financial obligations, such as settling medical bills, repaying borrowed money, or clearing credit card debts.

The simplicity and finality of receiving all compensation at once make lump-sum settlements a common choice, especially in cases where the insurer agrees to pay out the policy's maximum limit.

Structured Settlements

Alternatively, structured settlements disburse the total compensation through a series of scheduled payments over a period. These payments can be tailored to occur at regular intervals—monthly, quarterly, annually, or as specifically outlined in the settlement agreement.

While less common in car accident cases, structured settlements are sometimes preferable in negotiations involving substantial sums. This payment method can offer advantages, such as providing a steady income stream for victims as they recover and potentially reintegrate into the workforce.

For the liable party, offering a structured settlement might be a viable option when it allows them to spread the financial impact over time.

The Importance of Understanding Settlement Releases

Before finalizing a settlement, it's standard practice for the insurance company or the defendant's attorney to require signing a release agreement.

By signing this document, you agree to relinquish any future claims related to the accident in exchange for the settlement compensation. This agreement underscores the importance of a thorough evaluation to ensure the settlement adequately covers all past, ongoing, and anticipated future expenses resulting from the accident. 

Given the binding nature of this agreement, it is advisable to refrain from signing a release until you have consulted with a car accident lawyer who can clarify the terms and implications of the settlement.

It is best to approach the decision to accept a lump-sum or structured settlement with caution and informed judgment. Always consider the settlement's ability to meet your immediate and long-term financial needs stemming from the accident. 

Remember, accepting a settlement is voluntary, and you should feel confident and comfortable with the terms before proceeding. Consulting with a car accident lawyer can provide valuable insights and guidance, ensuring that the settlement reflects the full extent of your losses and supports your path to recovery.

Securing Compensation Through Court Judgments After a Car Accident

Court Judgments

Victims of car accidents may pursue compensation through the legal system, ultimately leading to a trial where a verdict and judgment can be rendered in their favor.

This path offers a formal avenue for obtaining the financial redress necessary to cover the costs and losses resulting from the accident. However, the journey to compensation doesn't end with a favorable verdict; the critical step of collecting the awarded judgment then begins.

The Process of Collecting a Judgment

In an ideal scenario, the liable party, once a judgment is passed against them, will fulfill their obligation and pay the awarded amount promptly. Yet, reality often sees plaintiffs facing challenges in actually receiving these funds.

Should the defendant prove reluctant or unable to voluntarily settle the judgment, the responsibility falls on the injured plaintiff to initiate collection actions.

The collection of a judgment can tap into various assets of the defendant.

This includes:

  • Income: A garnishment order against the defendant's earnings can give a direct line to getting the judgment. It diverts a portion of their earnings to the plaintiff until the debt is paid.
  • Bank Accounts: Levying the defendant's bank accounts can secure immediate funds towards the judgment, subject to legal limits and protections.
  • Accounts Receivable: For defendants owning businesses, intercepting payments due to them from clients or customers can be a viable strategy.
  • Physical Property: In certain cases, seizing and selling tangible assets belonging to the defendant, such as vehicles, real estate, or other valuable property, can contribute to fulfilling the judgment.
Ivan M. Diamond, Car Accident Lawyer, Bronx
Ivan M. Diamond, Car Accident Lawyer, Bronx

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer to Handle Your Claim

If you're dealing with the consequences of a car accident, contacting a legal professional can be a step towards reclaiming your peace of mind and securing your future.

Reach out to a car accident lawyer today to set up a free case consultation.

Why Hire an Experienced
Attorney Like Ivan Diamond

If you want to recover the maximum compensation that you deserve, you need an experienced personal injury attorney like Ivan Diamond on your side.

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If you want to recover the maximum compensation that you deserve, you need an experienced personal injury attorney like Ivan Diamond on your side.

Someone who understands the tactics insurance companies and opposing lawyers sometimes use to avoid liability and paying settlements.

Insurance adjusters, in particular, know that you’re going through a difficult time. They may try to take advantage by offering you a lowball settlement, hoping you’ll jump at quick money before you talk to a lawyer. Don’t help them out. Instead, let an experienced attorney handle the negotiations.

The same goes for preparing your claim. A skilled, knowledgeable litigator like me understands what facts and arguments are most important to prove your claim to a judge and jury, if it comes to taking a case to trial. I know how to guide my clients through depositions, discovery, and efforts by opposing lawyers to trap them into saying things that might undermine their case.

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