It's a simple truth that car accidents are commonly followed by lawsuits. People can sue to try to get money from the driver's insurance company. However, if they've already accepted a settlement, things can go downhill in a hurry. Settlement agreements are meant to wrap things up.
When someone chooses to later sue on the same claim, the insurance company and the legal system will all get involved very quickly. Generally, it is unwise to sue for additional compensation after a settlement has been reached, but there are certain circumstances that allow a plaintiff to take such action.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
There aren't any restrictions when you decide to sue someone after settling with their insurance company, but it's pretty difficult to win in court after the settlement process unless extenuating circumstances occur.
When an insurance company settles a claim, it agrees to pay a certain amount to wrap up the entire claim. Insurance adjusters love to settle claims and get files off of their desks. They include language in them so the victim agrees not to ask for more money for the accident -- ever. It's their way of getting it in print that there will be no future lawsuits.
Beginning to Unsettle Settlements
Even though the settlement agreement couldn't be more clear, some people decide it's not a good deal. Maybe the person needs more money to pay for doctor visits related to the accident. Sometimes, the victim will be convinced she could have gotten more if she would have played hardball or hired one of those television attorneys. Regardless of the circumstances, that person can ignore the settlement and sue for extra money.
Choosing to File a Suit
A person can file a lawsuit pretty easily. The victim just has to follow the court rules about filing legal documents and pay the required fees. Some people file suits on their own and others use lawyers because they know their way around the court system. However, just because a person files a lawsuit doesn't mean he'll win. In this case, there's a big risk involved thanks to that settlement deal.
Understanding Legal Sanctions
The victim will need a legally solid reason to file the lawsuit despite the agreement, or else he could bring on the wrath of a judge. All the defense needs to do is tell the likely unaware judge about the settlement. That judge would almost certainly dismiss the suit, and introduce the plaintiff to the civil procedure Rule 11. That means the plaintiff could be on the hook for the defendant's costs and legal fees. The court may even make the plaintiff pay additional court costs for wasting the court's time.
E.S. Martin is an attorney who has worked in civil litigation for more than eight years. He focuses his work in insurance, personal injury, subrogation and risk management.