Most personal injury cases will never see the inside of a courtroom. Exact statistics are hard to come by, but some estimates say that as many as nine out of every ten civil lawsuits will reach a settlement and not go to trial.
If you are hurt in a car crash or other personal injury, you may receive an offer to settle your case from the other party as quickly as a few weeks after the incident.
There are many benefits to settlements for both you and the negligent party in your case. Settlements do represent some risk, however. One of the biggest risks to injured plaintiffs is that the settlement agreement will not go far enough in compensating them for their losses.
When you have settled your case and come to this realization, you may wonder, “Can I still sue after a settlement?”
How Settlement Agreements Work
After a personal injury accident, you and the party who caused the accident may enter settlement negotiations at any time.
Either you or the other party may initiate such talks, and they may continue for as long as both of you are willing to entertain the possibility of a settlement. You may even reach a settlement while your case is being deliberated by a jury.
A settlement agreement is a contractual agreement you and the other party reach to resolve a pending personal injury case. It consists of two major promises, one made by the other party and one made by you.
The promises made are mutually dependent, which means that you are held to your part of the agreement only if the other party upholds their end of the bargain, and vice versa.
A Settlement Is an Exchange of Promises
For their part, in a settlement agreement, the allegedly negligent party agrees to pay you a certain sum of money upon specific terms. You and the other party have a great deal of flexibility in arriving at the amount of compensation that will be paid as well as the terms upon which it will be paid.
For example, you and the other party may agree that the compensation should be paid in a lump sum, over a few months, or periodically over several years.
In exchange for this promise of compensation, you agree to give up all legal rights you may have against the negligent party pertaining to the injury accident.
In other words, by entering into a settlement agreement and accepting the compensation offered, you agree not to sue the negligent party or pursue other legal remedies.
Settlement Agreements are Usually Final and Binding
Suppose that you and the other party in your car accident reach a settlement agreement. Several months after the settlement is finalized and long after you have accepted the compensation offered, you realize you have additional medical bills and expenses.
You also realize you no longer have any money left from the settlement. It is in this circumstance that you may wonder, “Can I still sue after a settlement?”
Unfortunately, in most cases, the answer will be no. If your settlement agreement included a provision that you do not pursue any other legal remedy or lawsuit against the negligent party, you will be held to this provision.
If you attempt to file a lawsuit anyway, the other party will only need to show the settlement agreement to the court, and they will be entitled to an order dismissing your lawsuit.
Can I Still Sue After a Settlement?
Despite the general rule, you may still be able to sue after a settlement in some limited circumstances.
Like any other contract, you must voluntarily agree to the terms of a settlement agreement. If the other party unfairly coerced or threatened you into entering the settlement agreement, you may be entitled to invalidate the agreement and proceed with a lawsuit.
Additionally, you may be able to file a suit if the other party did not pay you compensation according to the terms of the settlement agreement.
However, in this case, your right to compensation is likely limited to the amount you agreed upon in the agreement, plus your reasonable attorneys’ fees. You will likely not be able to pursue additional compensation.
Be Careful About Entering into a Settlement
Settlements offer you the certainty of compensation and the promise of receiving compensation more quickly than if you had to wait until after a trial. However, you should enter into them understanding that you will likely not be able to get any additional compensation beyond what you and the other party agree to.
Carefully consider your losses and your present and future financial needs before agreeing to a compensation value, and you will not need to wonder whether you can still sue after a settlement.
Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including car, truck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines