Many of the car accident claims in New Orleans are settled without a car accident lawsuit being filed. The insurance company for the party who caused the crash pays compensation to the accident victim in exchange for a release of all claims. In most cases, once a settlement amount has been paid and a release is signed, you cannot file a car accident lawsuit, even if you discover additional injuries or damages.

In this article, our New Orleans car accident attorney discusses the following questions:

  • What is a release of liability?
  • Are there any exceptions that would allow me to file a car accident lawsuit after accepting a settlement?
  • What should I do before I accept a car accident settlement?

What is a release of liability?

When you accept a settlement amount from the insurance company or the other party, you will need to sign a release of liability. The release of liability states that in exchange for the amount of money you are receiving from the other party, you agree to forfeit your right to allege any further liability against the party. In other words, you agree to accept the compensation in full compensation for all claims and damages.

In most cases, the release applies to the insurance company, its insured, and any other party that might be liable for your damages. The insurance company seeks to draft the release in broad terms to prevent you from seeking any further compensation for your claim in the future. When you sign a release of liability, you typically cannot take any legal action against the parties named in the lawsuit, including filing a car accident lawsuit.

A New Orleans car accident attorney can help you understand the terms of the agreement before you agree to be bound by these terms.

Are there any exceptions that would allow me to file a car accident lawsuit after accepting a settlement?

Most releases cover any situation that could arise in the future that might lead to additional claims. The purpose of the release is to protect the insurance company and its insured from further liability for your injuries, losses, and damages. However, there could be very limited situations in which you might be able to file a car accident lawsuit even after you accept a settlement and sign a release.

  • Claims Involving More Than One Party

When multiple parties may be responsible for your damages, you might be able to file a lawsuit against another party. Each party has the right to settle your claim against that party even if the other parties do not wish to settle the claim. However, you must be very careful when signing the release. The language in the release must be specific to include only claims against the party to the settlement.

As mentioned above, some releases attempt to release all claims as to all parties related to the accident. If the release does not release all parties, you may file a car accident lawsuit against other parties provided that you file the lawsuit before the one-year statute of limitations for car accident lawsuits in Louisiana.

  • Fraud or Duress

A release must be entered into freely and without fraud or bad faith. If the release was obtained through duress, bad faith, or fraud, a court could find the release to be void. However, it is extremely difficult to prove fraud, bad faith, or duress. Hiring an experienced New Orleans personal injury attorney to review the settlement before you sign a release can help you avoid issues of bad faith and fraud.

What should I do before I accept a car accident settlement?

Because this settlement may be the only chance for you to receive compensation for your financial losses, physician injuries, pain, and suffering, there are several things that you should do before you accept a car accident settlement.

  • Seek Medical Treatment — It is impossible to know the extent of your injuries without proper medical treatment. As soon as possible after the accident, see a doctor for a complete examination. Follow your doctor’s treatment plan or obtain a second opinion if you believe your physician may not have diagnosed your injuries correctly. Failing to document your injuries or waiting too long to see a doctor could reduce the amount of compensation you might receive for a car accident claim.
  • Document Financial Losses — You cannot recover compensation for financial losses unless you have documentation to prove you sustained the losses. Carefully document your financial losses, including medical expenses, lost income, travel expenses, personal care, help with household chores, etc.
  • Consider Future Damages — In addition to past and current financial damages, you might also be entitled to recover future damages. If you sustained a permanent impairment or disability, you might receive compensation for ongoing medical expenses and personal care. You may also receive compensation for future lost wages and loss of earning capacity.
  • Consult with a Personal Injury Lawyer — Before accepting a settlement agreement, it is in your best interest to review the agreement with a personal injury lawyer. As discussed above, once you accept a car accident settlement, you may not be able to recover any additional compensation, even if you did not receive full compensation for all damages or you discover additional injuries. An attorney calculates the actual value of all damages, including pain and suffering damages, to determine if the amount you are receiving for your car accident claim is a fair and just settlement.

Depending on the facts in your case, there could be many other steps you should take to protect your rights. A NOLA car accident attorney can help ensure you take all the steps necessary to maximize the chance you receive full compensation for your car accident claim.

Contact Our New Orleans Car Accident Attorney for Help

Do not accept an insurance settlement without having a personal injury lawyer review the settlement first. It is important that you ensure that a settlement compensates you for the full extent of your damages before you sign a release of liability.

Contact Attorney Fred Olinde of The Olinde Firm by telephone at (504) 587-1440 or 1-800-587-1889 to schedule a free legal consultation with a New Orleans car accident attorney.