The days and weeks after a serious injury can be chaotic and confusing. In the midst of pain and trauma, it may be tempting to look for an easy way out of potential financial hardship by accepting a fast settlement offer from an insurance company. All too often, the insurance company responds to an injury with a prompt payout that the injured victim gratefully signs off on—only to find out later that the settlement doesn’t cover all of their medical costs, related expenses, and lost wages. But is it too late? Can an injury victim reopen a personal injury claim in New Jersey if the settlement amount wasn’t enough or if they experience further damages?
Can I File for a Lawsuit After I Accepted a Settlement for Damages in a Personal Injury Case?
When you accept a settlement offer from a liable party’s insurance company or from your own insurance, you sign a waiver that exempts the company from further liability. This means you bindingly sign away your right to file a lawsuit or reopen your New Jersey personal injury claim. In fact, insurance companies count on this, which is why they often respond quickly with a settlement offer before you could possibly know the true extent of your damages. “Damages” in a personal injury case refers to the economic and non-economic consequences of an injury like your medical bills, lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering.
In New Jersey as well as other states, you cannot reopen a personal injury case after you’ve accepted a settlement. On the other hand, you can take as much time as you need to wait for a higher offer if you don’t sign the first settlement agreement the insurance company offers. In most cases, if they make an offer right away, they’ve accepted that you have ample evidence of your damages and the liable party’s negligence. Instead of accepting a lowball settlement offer, it’s best to hire a personal injury attorney to negotiate for you with the skill and experience to maximize the compensation the insurance company agrees to cover.
Evidence of Liability Results in a Higher Settlement in New Jersey Injury Claims
The key to streamlining the personal injury claim process is to gather and document clear evidence of liability. While some injuries fall under New Jersey’s no-fault insurance laws requiring injured victims to file a claim against their own insurance, for severe injuries with extensive damages, it’s often worth filing a lawsuit against the party at fault if you have ample evidence of their liability. A skilled attorney can investigate the circumstances of your injury, determine the liable party and the appropriate insurance policy, and document evidence of the at-fault party’s liability. Proving liability for injuries in New Jersey requires showing the following:
- That the at-fault party had a duty to take reasonable care to prevent injury to others
- They breached this duty through an act of negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing
- The negligent breach directly caused your injury
- You suffered serious economic damages from the injury as well as pain and suffering
When your side has clear evidence of liability, your attorney can send a strong demand package to the insurance company. When faced with significant evidence and a carefully calculated list of damages to maximize compensation, the insurance company is usually willing to begin negotiating a larger settlement with the injury victim’s attorney.
If the insurance company continues to offer only an inadequate settlement amount or wrongfully denies the claim, you can take the matter to court in a lawsuit as long as you didn’t accept the settlement and sign away your rights.
Are There Exceptions That Allow an Injury Victim to Reopen Their New Jersey Personal Injury Claim?
The only possible exception is in rare cases where an injury victim can show the court that the liable party committed fraud to undervalue the claim before they signed the waiver. Otherwise, you cannot reopen the claim or file another lawsuit for the same injury.
Although you cannot reopen a claim after accepting a settlement, you can refuse to sign the liability waiver and speak to an attorney before accepting the first settlement offer. If you sustained serious injuries with long-term implications, it’s critical to have a Cherry Hill personal injury attorney in your corner before signing away your right to file a lawsuit.