I received a settlement for a personal injury in a mall in 1999. When I fell I retained injuries to my neck and low back. Unfortunately I was living out of state at the time of settlement in 2002. At the time of settlement the doctors had not taken any MRIs or CTs of my neck even though there were signs indicating the need. About 2 yrs ago the symptoms got so bad it resulted in the removal of a disc in my neck and insertion of an artificial one. Now the surgery has caused Sleep Apnea. Would if be possible to reopen the case on the basis that the nerve damage and herniated disc weren't diagnosed at the time of settlement?
If you were an adult at the time of the settlement, and you signed a General Release that settled all claims, the short answer is "No, your case and all claims have been resolved." However, you should contact the attorney who represented you in the case and find out if the terms of your settlement reserved any future claims. If that attorney or the law firm are no longer available, find a copy of the documentation you signed at the time of the settlement and consult a personal injury attorney in the jurisdiction where you filed suit.
If you signed a standard insurance release, it included language cutting off any and all claims assiciated with the accident including future unknown effects of that injury even if they could not be anticipated at the time of the release. A release is a full final termination of the claim. The courts will enforce a release for the public policy reason that all parties to any controversy require certainty and finality, not to mention that they are in fact able to destroy old records at some point.
Barring outright fraud, which only applies extremely rarely, and which also has its own statute of limitations, this matter is closed.
Being out of state is not relevant to the finality of a release.
My office handles personal injury and accident cases in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. And despite the procedural and legal differences between our states, the law applicable to this topic is relatively universal across the U.S.
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