Can You Continue to Pursue Your Personal Injury Claim After You Cash a Settlement Check?

by MaryAnn A.

I cashed a very small “settlement check” from the at-fault driver’s insurance company a few days after I was injured in an accident last fall. Since then I have been having back pains and my doctor now tells me that I may need surgery because of the injury I sustained in this accident. I ran out of my own Medical Payments coverage long ago. Is there anything I can do? Irving, Glen Allen, VA

That is a tricky question and situations like yours are why we do not recommend rushing into personal injury claim settlements immediately after an accident.

First, do you remember signing any type of settlement release? Many times, settlements that are made very soon after an accident are done by check only; the adjuster may feel that the claim is so small that no actual settlement release is needed. If you did not sign a settlement release, your chance of re-opening your claim and receiving additional money increases. If you did sign a settlement release, and the insurance company refuses to reopen the case after you notify them of your situation, you might wish to consult with a competent attorney in your area to see if there is any possible successful action you can take.

If you did not sign a personal injury settlement release, next look at the settlement check. Obviously you do not have it if you cashed it, but see if you can get a copy from your bank or the insurance company. The insurance company cannot refuse your request for a copy of the cashed check. Does the check say “full and final settlement” on it, or does it merely say “for bodily injury” or “for personal injury”? If it has one of the latter phrases on it, you can just ask the insurance company to re-open your case. We would recommend making this request in writing. If the check does say “full and final settlement”, you can still make your request, but the insurance company may refuse. We would then again suggest that you consult with a competent attorney in your area for further action. Your injury, especially if it requires surgery, is going to be expensive.

Some states have rules or laws regarding insurance company settlements; making it unlawful for a personal injury claim to be settled too quickly after an accident. These rules help prevent an injured person who may be confused or grieving, or under the influence of medications from being taken advantage of. If this is what you allege, then you might want to consider adding “unfair claims practice” to list of complaints.

This article is approved for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of competent local legal counsel.

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