Timing is a critical factor in any personal injury case. First, it's important to file a personal injury claim within New York State’s statute of limitations – usually three years from the date of the accident. Timing is also a factor when you agree to accept a settlement because it’s not possible to reopen a personal injury case in New York.
This question of reopening a personal injury case is often a tough one. Perhaps you accepted a settlement agreement, only later to realize your medical bills were higher than anticipated. Or, an injury got worse and requires more treatment or rehabilitation than you were expecting. Even if you later realize the settlement is not enough or if your injuries progress, you cannot reopen a personal injury case in New York.
Reaching Maximum Medical Improvement
In most cases, it’s in your best interest to wait until you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) before negotiating or accepting a settlement. Maximum medical improvement is the point at which you have fully recovered from your injuries. Some injured victims may recover entirely and be able to go back to their lives. However, in the cases of serious injury, MMI may be the point at which continued medical treatment is unlikely to improve your condition.
If you accept a settlement without reaching your MMI, you may not receive enough compensation to fully cover your expenses in the future. You need a full understanding of your prognosis and what to expect in the future before you should accept a settlement offer.
By waiting until you’ve reached MMI, you can be assured that your settlement will cover all of your medical needs and expected losses.
Release of Liability
Once a settlement award amount has been agreed to, or once a jury or judge has issued a verdict in a civil trial, the Court will issue an Order of Settlement. One of the most important parts of the Order of Settlement is the Settlement Release form. This document will outline the terms of the settlement offer which typically include:
- No admittance of fault. Even though the at-fault party may be paying the settlement, they are not legally admitting fault.
- Privacy. The terms of a settlement agreement are almost never made publicly available.
- Release of further liability and claims. Once the settlement release form is signed, you can no longer file a claim against the defendant or the insurance company for further compensation related to the incident or accident.
If you have not yet consulted with an attorney, do not sign a Settlement Release form without doing so. Once you agree to an amount and accept the terms of a settlement, you cannot go back for additional compensation if you later realize the amount was not enough. By signing, you are releasing any other claims against the defendant and usually any other defendant related to the incident. In other words, once you settle you can never reopen the case or try to file a claim for additional compensation. If you are married, your spouse may be required to sign the release as well.
Exceptions to Reopen a Personal Injury Claim in New York
There are few rare exceptions to reopen a personal injury claim. If you have yet to sign the Release of Liability form, you still may be able to keep your claim open. In extraordinary circumstances of fraud or failure to pay the terms of settlement, you may be able to reopen your claim.
Contact Us Before Accepting a Settlement
Working with an experienced New York personal injury attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Why risk being unfairly compensated and not having recourse to fix it? When you hire a New York personal injury lawyer from our team, you pay nothing upfront. We work on contingent fees that are only collected if we win your case. If we don’t win, you don’t pay.
Contact Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, for a free consultation. We have offices and locations across New York State and throughout New York City. With our proven track record of success and our commitment to client care, we can turn your setback into a comeback.