Can I File A Lawsuit After A Claim is Settled?

Posted on: September 11, 2020

When a car accident causes property damage or injuries, the injured party may file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. After the claim is investigated and medical records are reviewed, a car accident lawyer will determine the best legal course of action that will secure the best settlement offer. Once a fair settlement has been reached and the agreed-on compensation has been secured, this generally marks the end of the claims process. In most cases, a person cannot file a lawsuit against the party responsible for causing the injuries once a personal injury claim has been settled. However, there are exceptions to the rule. A skilled car accident lawyer will walk clients through the claims process and determine whether they can file a lawsuit after a settlement has been reached.

When Can I File a Lawsuit After a Settlement?

Although the general rule is that someone cannot file a lawsuit after a claim has been settled, they may be able to sue under certain circumstances. For example, if a driver can prove that the other driver acted in a fraudulent or coercive manner, or if the settlement negotiations were entered in bad faith, the driver may be able to sue. This is rare and difficult to prove, so drivers are urged to hire an experienced car accident lawyer if this is the case.

In addition, if there are multiple parties involved, the driver may be able to file a lawsuit against another person if he or she is partly responsible for the accident. This can happen if the driver was not initially aware that another party played a role in the accident. For example, if a victim settled their case against the at-fault driver, they may be able to file a lawsuit against the car manufacturer if they find out that a defective car part was partially to blame for the accident.

When am I Prohibited from Filing a Lawsuit After Settling?

In most cases, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will require the injured driver to sign a liability waiver before a settlement can be received. This is a legally binding contract that releases the at-fault party from further liability. The injured driver must comply with the contract before they can receive compensation. The waiver usually states that the injured driver is accepting the settlement amount as full satisfaction of all claims and will not continue to seek compensation from the insurance company or the at-fault driver, even if they find out that the claim was worth more money or that their injury was more serious than they thought. Having a skilled car accident lawyer will ensure the victim avoids these pitfalls and secures the most optimal settlement offer.

Statute of Limitations for Filing a Personal Injury Claim in New Jersey

When someone files a personal injury lawsuit in New Jersey, the claim must be filed within two years of the date of the crash. The case does not need to be resolved within that time; it must be filed within two years. If the claimant does not file by this deadline, it is unlikely that the claim will be processed. In fact, it will almost certainly be dismissed, which means the claimant will not be eligible to collect any financial compensation. There are exceptions to this rule, which may extend the amount of time that a car accident victim can file a lawsuit. Key exceptions include the following:

  • Underage victim: The statute of limitations rule does not apply if the victim is a minor. Therefore, if a child under the age of 18 was injured in a car accident, the parents may have additional time to file a claim. However, once the child reaches 18 years of age, they have two years to take legal action.
  • Mental disability: If a car accident victim has a mental disability that was not caused by the car accident, additional time may be required to understand his or her legal rights.
  • Discovery rule: In the state of New Jersey, the discovery rule allows car accident victims to file a claim two years after an injury is discovered, and up to a maximum of four years after the date of the accident. This is rarely an issue in car accident claims, but it can happen.
  • Absent defendant: Car accident victims may be able to suspend the statute if the at-fault party is out of state and cannot be served. A car accident lawyer will need to file an affidavit with the court stating that the defendant is absent and cannot be served. 

It is important for clients to discuss the case with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible so that they do not miss important deadlines and lose their right to recover damages. The lawyer will work closely with the client to collect the evidence and documentation needed to build a strong case. If the insurance company offers a settlement amount that is too low, the lawyer will negotiate on the client’s behalf and secure the compensation they deserve.    

What Steps Should I Take Before Settling?

It is important that claimants take certain steps before accepting a settlement offer because it is unlikely that they will be able to file a lawsuit after the claim has been settled. These steps include the following:

  • Seek medical attention: It is crucial that an injured driver is examined by a health care professional after a car accident. This will help establish a connection between the car accident and injuries. Oftentimes, some injuries are not obvious immediately following an accident because of the adrenaline that is coursing through the body. Head injuries, organ damage, and internal bleeding can become serious, even life-threatening, if the victim does not seek immediate medical attention. A skilled medical professional can also help determine the costs associated with any current and future treatment that may be necessary.
  • Consider how the injuries affect the claimant’s job: If serious injuries prevent someone from returning to work, this can cause a significant financial hardship. Claimants should be as specific as possible in terms of how the injury has impacted their ability to work. If necessary, claimants can talk to an expert witness who can evaluate their lost earning capacity.
  • Collect documentation: The more evidence and documentation that are collected, the stronger will be the claim. All medical bills, test results, work records, and photographs from the accident scene should be collected. If witness testimonials are available, they should be included as well.
  • Hire a car accident lawyer: It is highly recommended that injured drivers hire an experienced car accident lawyer when pursuing a personal injury settlement. The lawyer will protect a claimant’s rights and ensure that the settlement covers all expenses, including current and future lost wages, all medical expenses associated with the injury, and property damage. The lawyer will also make sure that the client has a thorough understanding of the settlement offer, including any rights they may be forfeiting.

Can I Reopen My Case?

It is unlikely that a claimant will be able to reopen their case once they agree to settle. However, a claimant may be able to back out of the settlement under the following conditions: 

  • A settlement was reached prior to the lawsuit: It is unlikely that an insurance adjuster will change his or her mind, particularly if the injured driver does not have a car accident lawyer representing them. Even if a claimant has legal representation, the adjuster may not negotiate a release. If this is the case, a claimant’s options will include signing the release and taking the settlement money or taking the chance that a judge will allow them to back out of the settlement or get the release changed.
  • A case is settled in suit: In this scenario, the claimant’s lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer will negotiate the terms of the release. If an agreement cannot be reached, the lawyers will send the dispute to a judge to decide. The judge will order the claimant to sign the release as-is, order the release to be changed, or cancel the settlement and order both parties to proceed with the lawsuit.

Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Assist Car Accident Victims with the Claims Process

If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a car accident and you wish to pursue a personal injury claim, you are urged to contact the Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law as soon as possible. Our experienced legal team will secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 732-308-0200 or contact us online.

Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York City.

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