Can a car accident claim be reopened after it is closed? With rare exceptions, car accident claims are final. Generally, you cannot reopen a claim after signing your settlement agreement or recovering a court judgment. Unfortunately, this is true even if you realize your injuries or damages are more extensive than initially thought.

Below, our Los Angeles car accident lawyers discuss rare circumstances that could reopen a claim. We also discuss your potential options for pursuing additional compensation after your claim is closed.

Options for Recovering Compensation After a Car Accident

Is the other driver or another party responsible for your car accident injuries and damages? If so, you may be able to seek compensation for your losses. Depending on your situation, you may have a few options for pursuing compensation. These options may include the following:

  • Insurance claim against the responsible party’s liability insurance policy
  • Insurance claim with your own insurance company if you have an uninsured or underinsured insurance policy or MedPay.
  • Lawsuit against the responsible party

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How Do Car Accident Settlements Work?

A car accident settlement is part of the claims process. It involves negotiations between the injury victim and the insurance company representing the at-fault driver.

Once you file your claim, the insurance adjuster assigned to the case will review it. They may either accept it and pay compensation, make a counteroffer, or deny it. Then, car accident settlement negotiations start. If you have an attorney on your side, your attorney will negotiate for fair compensation on your behalf.

After a settlement amount is agreed upon, you will typically sign an agreement and release form. You may choose to receive your settlement in a lump sum, which is a one-time payment, or in structured payments, which are periodic payments over time.

Obtaining Compensation From a Court Judgment

While most car accident cases settle out of court, it is not always the case. When an agreement cannot be reached through negotiation due to lowball offers, refusal to negotiate, or outright denial of liability, your attorney may recommend taking the case to court.

If your case goes to trial, both sides will present evidence and make arguments. Then, a judge or jury will decide who is at fault for the accident and the amount of compensation you are entitled to, if any.

Why Are Car Accident Cases Typically Closed After a Settlement?

A settlement agreement typically involves signing a release of liability. This tool allows insurance companies to ensure that once a claimant signs an agreement, they cannot later reopen the claim to pursue additional compensation. Insurance companies would have no incentive to settle car accident claims if settlements did not provide a guarantee against future claims for the same accident.

It is important to understand that the insurance company is not on your side. Insurance companies are for-profit companies. They want to resolve claims as quickly as possible for as little as possible. One tactic they use to do this involves offering quick settlements to injury victims.

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Accepting a quick settlement from the insurance company may be tempting. You may be concerned about mounting medical bills and time from work. However, we do not recommend accepting the first settlement offer. In fact, we do not recommend accepting a settlement offer until you consult with an experienced car accident attorney.

Soon after the accident, you may not have a clear picture of the full extent of your injuries or damages. You want to ensure the offer will cover your long-term expenses and losses related to the accident. Unfortunately, accepting a quick settlement may leave you with out-of-pocket costs because you cannot reopen the claim after it is closed.Woman explaining a document to a couple during a meeting

What Is a Release of Liability?

A release of liability form is a legal document that a claimant must sign as part of a settlement. When you sign this form, you agree to waive any right to pursue future legal action against the at-fault party and their insurance company for any matters related to the accident. You cannot reopen the claim or pursue more compensation in the future. Essentially, you exchange your right to initiate any subsequent claims or lawsuits for a settlement check.

What Are the Usual Terms of a Release of Liability Form?

While every release of liability form may have different terms, the primary purpose of the release is to protect the defendant or the insurer from further liability. Once the release is signed, it prevents the claimant from pursuing additional compensation for the same accident.

You can expect a release of liability form to generally include the following:

  • Identification of the involved parties
  • Description of the accident
  • Settlement amount
  • Release of future legal action
  • Statement denying fault or wrongdoing for the accident

We recommend consulting with an experienced attorney before signing anything from the insurance company. Signing a settlement agreement and a release of liability has significant legal consequences. An attorney can ensure you do not settle for anything less than you need and deserve.

Can You File Another Car Crash Claim or Lawsuit?

No, you cannot file another claim or lawsuit against the same party for the same accident after signing a release. You forfeit your right to future claims when signing a settlement agreement. You cannot file another claim even if you discover additional injuries or experience complications that result in extra expenses. If you try to file a lawsuit, the court will dismiss the case based on the existence of the signed release agreement.

When Can You Reopen a Car Accident Case?

Car accident settlements are typically conclusive, with both parties agreeing to a resolution that prevents future claims related to the car crash. However, reopening a car accident claim may be possible in very rare and specific circumstances. These exceptions, while limited, include:

  • Unsigned agreement. If you verbally agreed to settlement terms but did not formally sign an agreement with a release, you may be able to retract it. The insurance company may try to enforce a verbal agreement, so we recommend getting help from an experienced car accident attorney.
  • Technical errors. Significant technical mistakes in the settlement agreement, such as an incorrect settlement amount, might provide grounds to challenge and potentially reopen the claim.
  • Fraud or bad faith. If the settlement was based on fraudulent information or misrepresentation by the at-fault party, their insurance company, or their legal representation, proving such fraud could allow you to contest the settlement and reopen the claim. You may also have a bad faith claim.
  • Unfulfilled terms. If the agreement was not honored within the agreed-upon timeframe, this breach of terms may enable you to reopen the claim.

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How to Determine if You Can Reopen Your Car Accident Claim

An experienced car accident lawyer can help you determine the viability of reopening your claim. Even if you cannot reopen your car accident claim, you may still have legal options available for seeking compensation. Our Los Angeles car accident attorneys discuss your potential options below.

Other Ways to Recover Compensation After Resolving Your Car Accident Claim

Navigating the aftermath of a car accident can be overwhelming, especially when your settlement falls short of covering all of your damages or if new complications come up during your recovery process. You may believe you are out of legal options. However, you may still have viable legal options to recover additional compensation.

Third-Party Liability

In many car accidents, it is common for more than one person or entity to be responsible for your car accident injuries and losses. For example, if the accident involved multiple vehicles, another driver may share fault for the crash. External factors like unsafe road conditions or vehicle defects could have also contributed to the accident. A government entity responsible for road maintenance or a vehicle manufacturer could be liable for your damages.

First-Party Coverage

First-party insurance coverages, such as uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage and Medical Payments coverage (MedPay), can provide additional compensation beyond your closed accident claim. These coverages can compensate you for losses not covered by the responsible party’s insurance, including medical expenses and, in some cases, lost wages and pain and suffering.

California does not require motorists to carry these coverages as part of its minimum insurance requirements. However, you may have them as part of your policy. We recommend working with an experienced Los Angeles car accident attorney. An attorney can thoroughly investigate the accident and review your insurance policy to determine all liable parties and potential avenues of compensation.

How long does it take to settle a car accident claim?

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers

Have you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in an accident in the greater Los Angeles or Southern California areas? We recommend consulting with an attorney before signing anything from the insurance company. You may have a viable claim to recover compensation for your losses. However, you want to ensure that a settlement does not leave you with out-of-pocket expenses in the future.

Even if you have already signed a settlement, do not hesitate to discuss your situation with an experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyer. During a consultation, we can answer your legal questions and help you understand whether you have additional potential legal options. Call us at (800) 824-5416 or contact us online today.