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What if My Injury Worsens After Settling a Claim?

February 15, 2024Personal Injury

In general, once you settle a claim and sign a release of liability waiver confirming the settlement, you cannot reopen the case. You cannot renegotiate for a higher settlement even if your injury worsens after signing. This is why it is crucial to take your time and to hire a qualified Denver personal injury attorney to help ensure you receive fair financial compensation the first time around.

When Might an Injury Worsen Post-Settlement? 

Most insurance settlements in Colorado take around three to six months. Some can take one year or longer. By the time a settlement is reached, an accident victim’s injuries have most likely reached a point where they are fully healed or healed as much as a doctor believes is possible (the point of maximum medical improvement). In most cases, there are no major changes to an injury after this point. 

Maximum medical improvement, or MMI, refers to a point in a patient’s medical journey where his or her condition has reached what a doctor thinks is its fullest potential for recovery. Further medical improvement is not expected after this point, even with continued medical care or treatment. Waiting to achieve your point of MMI to accept a personal injury settlement can be important.  

If you accept the very first settlement offer, it may be too soon for your doctors to understand how long your injury will last, how much it will heal with treatments, and the impact it will have on your life and future. Therefore, you may be at risk of accepting far less than you actually need for the injury. However, some injuries get worse even after a doctor has determined that the injury has stabilized or reached its MMI.

Pursuing Compensation for Future Medical Care

The possibility of an injury worsening after reaching a settlement is why a personal injury attorney will include future estimated medical costs as a recoverable damage in a lawsuit. This specific type of damage seeks compensation for how much the injury is likely to cost the victim in the future.

Future medical care may include anticipated surgeries, doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, rehabilitation, medication, medical devices, medical-related travel, disability accommodations and live-in care. Seeking this compensation can help protect a victim from settling for less than he or she deserves.

Can You Reopen a Closed Personal Injury Case? 

In general, no. It is only possible to reopen a personal injury case that has been resolved in rare circumstances. Reopening a case is never permitted if the plaintiff only wishes to seek a higher amount – even if his or her injury has worsened from the date that the settlement was accepted. Instead, there must be a valid legal reason to revisit the case. 

For example, you may be able to reopen the case against a party besides the original defendant. If further investigation finds that a third party played a role in causing your accident, it may be possible to pursue a new claim against this party for the same accident or injury. However, a clause in your original settlement agreement may block this type of action.

Another possibility is proof of fraud, or the misrepresentation of facts, during your personal injury claim. If one or more parties involved in your case are found guilty of fraud afterward, the courts may allow you to reopen the case. Note, however, that claims of fraud are uncommon and challenging to prove.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer for Settlement Negotiation Assistance 

It is difficult and exceedingly rare to reopen the original claim after accepting a settlement and signing a liability waiver. The best way to avoid settling for less than you need in the event that your injury worsens over time is by working with an attorney from the very beginning. An attorney will negotiate a fair amount in compensation for your past and future injury-related losses. For more information, contact an attorney at Dormer Harpring for a free consultation.