Faced with mounting medical bills, immediate and long-term recovery costs, property damage, and ongoing physical pain and emotional suffering, many accident victims are eager to receive a settlement that can help them heal and get their lives back to normal. However, in personal injury cases speed can be an enemy of justice. Accepting a settlement offer too quickly, or without consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney, can result in you receiving a financial award that doesn't provide the compensation you need and deserve. Some accident victims may even assume that they can sue for additional compensation if their settlement doesn't meet their needs. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Accident victims are almost always prohibited from suing the same person or party for the same issue, even if they feel they didn't receive an adequate or appropriate settlement amount. However, there are a few notable exceptions. Read on to learn more.
The inability to sue for additional compensation is governed by a legal concept known as res judicata. Latin for “a matter judged,” res judicata states that a judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction is both final and conclusive. In most cases, res judicata conclusively bars plaintiffs from bringing the same claim or demand against the same defendant a second time. This prohibition against re-litigation applies equally to both losing plaintiffs who wish to re-sue a winning defendant and winning plaintiffs who hope to re-sue a losing defendant. Res judicata is also sometimes referred to as “claim preclusion.” The fact that these cases usually can't be re-litigated makes it even more important for accident victims to ensure that they get everything right on the first go-around, and is another reason why working with an attorney who knows the ins and outs of personal injury law is essential.
Notable Exceptions to Case Settlements
While res judicata is almost always absolute, there are a few notable, if rare, exceptions. Accident victims may be able to have their case litigated a second time under these limited conditions:
- The settlement agreement and release of liability was never signed. The case—and the plaintiff's ability to continue litigation—concludes as soon as the plaintiff signs the settlement agreement and liability release. Thus, it is in the plaintiff's best interest to avoid signing any documents until they've had a chance to discuss them at length with a seasoned personal injury attorney.
- You're able to get the settlement agreement set aside. If you agree to settle with an insurance company or an individual's defense attorney, but can't agree on the terms of the settlement, you may be able to have the settlement agreement set aside if the dispute is significant.
Additionally, some accident victims are under the mistaken impression that they can have their case re-litigated if they feel that their attorney gave them bad advice. In this case, the plaintiff would have to file a claim or grievance against the attorney, but would still not be able to have their case re-opened unless, perhaps, there was a legal error so glaring that it warranted the filing of a notice of appeal.
Were You Injured in an Accident in Wilmington, DE?
If you were injured in an accident that wasn't your fault, it's important not to sign anything before speaking with an attorney. The skilled legal team with the Morris James Personal Injury Group can help you resolve your claim or case. To discuss the details of your case, complete our online contact form and we'll get in touch to schedule your free initial consultation. Our valued clients come to us from all cities and towns in New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County, including Camden, Clayton, Dover, Felton, Harrington, Magnolia, Smyrna, and Wyoming; New Castle County including Bear, Claymont, Hockessin, Middletown, New Castle, Newark, Pike Creek, Townsend, and Wilmington; and Sussex County including Bridgeville, Dewey Beach, Frankford, Georgetown, Greenwood, Laurel, Lewes, Milford, Millsboro, Milton, Rehoboth Beach, Seaford, and Selbyville.