Can a Car Accident Claim be Reopened?
Can You Reopen a Past Car Accident Claim?
The aftermath of a car accident can be an immensely stressful and overwhelming time. The financial burden of medical bills and additional damages, the mental and emotional weight of trying to get back to your regular life, the physical strain of your injuries–it’s a lot. What’s more, the process of making an insurance claim or a legal claim can feel wildly daunting. It’s very normal to feel confused by the process, and to want it to be settled and done as quickly as possible. No one wants to spend more time than they have to talking to the insurance company and navigating the claims process when they’re trying to heal.
But what happens if you do reach a settlement agreement and close your car accident claim, only to realize that, for whatever reason, you’d like to reopen it? Maybe you didn’t realize the value of your car accident claim, and want to reopen the case to secure a better settlement agreement. Is that even possible? Below, we explore the barriers to reopening a car accident claim, and the situations in which you may be able to do so.
If you or a loved one has experienced injuries from a car crash, or is in the midst of filing an injury claim, don’t hesitate to reach out to a car accident lawyer at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys. We believe that all those who have suffered injuries from a car crash deserve justice, and we are here to help you achieve just that. Call us anytime to speak to an experienced car accident attorney receive a free consultation about your accident.
What Does the Insurance Claims Process Look Like?
Before diving into the possibilities of opening closed car accident claims, it’s important to understand what the claims process looks like and how it works.
After a car accident, one of the first steps you should take is alerting your insurance company. If you don’t alert them shortly after the auto accident, they may attempt to deny you coverage down the line. Insurance companies work different in different states — in some states the person who caused the accident uses their coverage to make payments to the injured party, whereas in other states, all parties use their own insurance coverage to receive damages.
Regardless of where you’re located, it is possible for the process to end here. If it’s a minor accident, and it’s clear who was at fault, it may be fairly simple to receive the damages you need in order to cover medical bills and additional damages. However, there are many cases in which the compensation you may receive via insurance is not substantial to treat your injuries and meet your other needs after the accident. Perhaps your claim and your injuries are severe enough that they require additional compensation in order for you to mov forward. Perhaps the person who caused the crash is underinsured, requiring you to file an underinsured motorist claim. Or perhaps a fair settlement simply cannot be reached.
In cases like this, it may be necessary to file a legal claim, in the form of a personal injury suit. Again, what this process looks like can vary from state to state, so it’s important to work with an attorney who is familiar with the laws in your area.
What Are the Barriers to Reopening a Car Accident Claim?
The unfortunate reality is that, in many cases, reopening a car accident claim is not an option. One of the final steps in the negotiation process with the insurance provider of the liable party is to sign a release form. This release form, also known as a “release of liability,” is essentially a document stating that once the at fault party has paid the require sum agreed upon in the settlement, they are released from any further liability for the car accident.
Once you sign a release that frees the other party from liability, it can be difficult to reopen the claim. This is one reason why it’s always recommended that you speak with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your car accident. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer means that you will never sign a release form without fully understanding exactly what it is you’re agreeing to. It also means you have someone to guide you through the entirety of the claims process and fight to secure you a fair settlement amount.
If you’ve been in a car accident and are interested in exploring your legal options and legal rights, have questions about the role of insurance coverage, want to know how to secure a valuable settlement, or anything else, don’t hesitate to reach out to Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys. We’re ready and waiting to take your call, and you’re always entitled to a free, entirely confidential consultation.
When Can a Car Accident Claim be Reopened?
All that being said, there are some situations in which you may be able to reopen your car accident claim. These situations include:
You Never Signed a Release of Liability
As mentioned above, one of the most important steps after accepting any settlement offers is to sign releases, particularly a release of liability. Signing a release of liability essentially ensures that the at fault party is no longer liable once they’ve paid the agreed upon settlement agreement through their liability payments. In other words, once this is signed, the case is closed, and the at fault driver cannot be held responsible for anything other than what’s described in the release form.
Typically, once both parties accept a settlement offer, a verbal agreement will occur before anything is formally signed. In this verbal agreement, both parties will state that they’re happy with the settlement, willing to move forward, and agree to all the terms laid out. The next step is to sign the official release form.
However, if this form has not yet been signed, and all you’ve done is agree to the terms of the settlement verbally, you may be able to go back and reopen settlement negotiations.
There Were Technical Errors in the Settlement Agreement
As you might expect, navigating an insurance settlement involves a great deal of paperwork. There’s paperwork regarding the victim’s lost income, medical expenses and received medical care, paperwork regarding the settlement, paperwork from the insurance companies, and more.
All that is to say, it’s not impossible for a technical error to occur at some point in the claims process. Perhaps the paperwork from the insurance company regarding the settlement shows a different amount of compensation than what was agreed to. Perhaps your name, or names of other parties, are misspelled. Perhaps the descriptions of your injuries or other details are incorrect. If a technical error like this occurs, it’s possible to have an accident claim be reopened. This may be the case even if an agreement has already been signed.
You Never Got Paid
There are many paths to securing a settlement after a car accident. You may have been able to receive payment directly from the insurance company. You may have reached a settlement agreement by negotiating with the other parties involved. You may have gone to trial and been awarded a settlement that way. Any of these paths are ways to securing the necessary compensation for your lost wages, medical bills, property damage, mental and emotional suffering, and more.
But what if, after all that, the payment never actually arrives? If several weeks pass after settling your case or winning at trial and there’s no money to be seen, you may have a problem. The next step would be to follow up with the insurance company respnsible for your payments, but if they seem to be avoiding you or trying to get away without paying, you may be able to argue that your claim needs to be reopened.
You might have agreed to settle a car accident case or have won it at trial and signed a release of all claims. However, several weeks may have lapsed without you receiving a settlement check. If you follow up with an insurer and they seem evasive, less-than-forthright, or it’s hard to pin them down, then you may have a valid reason to try and see if you can reopen the claim.
Your Claim Was Not Handled in Good Faith
Insurers are responsible for handling car accident claims in good faith; this means they need to be honest, fair, and prompt throughout their handling of your claim. If the insurance companies or company handling your claim act in bad faith, you may have a valid reason to reopen your insurance claim. Examples of acting in bad faith include:
- The insurer harassed, bullied, or threatened you
- The insurer lied to you about any aspect of your claim
- The insurer refused to communicate with you or did not respond in a reasonable period of time
- The insurer failed to fairly and properly investigate your claim
- And more
If you are concerned that your car accident claim is being handled incorrectly, contact a bad faith insurance attorney to learn your options.
The Benefits of Working With a Car Accident Lawyer
In any kind of a car accident claim, there are many benefits to working with an experienced lawyer. Car accident claims can be incredibly complex and overwhelming, and whether you’re just beginning the process or attempting to reopen your case, working with an attorney can be beneficial. Your car accident lawyer can:
Your attorney can compile all the information and documentation that helps build you a strong case. This can include evidence of your injuries, medical expenses, photographs from the scene, and more.
Liaise with the Insurance Company
Your car accident attorney will be the point person between you and all other entities involved in the case. You don’t have to worry that an insurance adjuster will try to get you to accept a low settlement offer or admit liability; all communication will be vetted by your attorney.
Negotiate Settlement Offers on Your Behalf
Any attempt to settle a claim involves some degree of negotiation. Most likely, you and your attorney will present a settlement offer to the other party, and they will reply with a counter offer. Throughout this process, your attorney will make sure you only sign a release once a fair and acceptable offer is on the table. Your lawyer will never allow you to accept a low settlement offer on your claim.
Protect You in Court
In the vast majority of auto accident cases, all parties involved are able to agree to a settlement on the claim. However, there are cases in which it becomes impossible to settle, likely because one party will not agree to an offer. In a case like this, it may become necessary to go to trial. If this is the case, your lawyer can continue to protect you in the courtroom just as they have throughout the claims process. Every attorney at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys has extensive, hands-on courtroom experience.
Why Work With Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys?
If you’re wondering about reopening your car accident claim, or have other questions about your auto accident case, consider reaching to Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys. The lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys are experts in handling car accident claims, and have the stellar track record to prove just that. When you work with Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, you can rest assured that your auto accident claim will be given the attention and care it deserves, and that we will explore all possible legal options to secure you both justice and compensation.
At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, we believe that all those with car accident injuries, whether those injuries are physical, mental, or emotional, deserve someone to fight on their behalf. We have an incredible track record of defending our clients. When you work with us, you don’t pay a dime unless we win for you. All of our payment is on a contingency fee basis, meaning that if you win, we receive a percentage of your settlement. We’re here for you every step of the way, and you never have to worry about unexpected fees or costs.
Don’t wait: reach out to Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys to connect with an attorney and receive a free consultation.
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