If you suffer an injury in a car accident, you want to have experienced counsel at your side who knows how to try a case in front of a jury. It is important to have attorneys who know how to present evidence, question medical experts, and connect the applicable law to the available proof. Sometimes in the process of preparing for trial, the at-fault party will offer a settlement to avoid going to trial. If a settlement is chosen, the injured party agrees to forego trying the suit and consider the matter concluded.
The Second District Court of Appeals of Florida recently issued an opinion in Pena v. Fox (Case No. 2D14-3357), in which an injured woman’s case was dismissed after the trial court ruled that a settlement agreement had been reached between the parties. The injured woman’s attorney had delivered a settlement offer to the insurer of the at-fault party prior to filing suit. The injured woman requested the policy limits and was willing to sign a general release releasing all claims. The insurer gave the injured woman a check with a release with language that she would release the insured and his heirs, executors, and assigns from liability. The release also included the the insurer’s agents and employees. Based on this language, the injured woman considered the offer rejected and filed the personal injury suit.
The at-fault party claimed that the settlement agreement meant she was barred from filing the personal injury suit, and the trial court agreed, granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss despite the injured woman pointing out the language including the “agents and employees” of the insurer. The trial court did not see the extra language as a failure to settle in good faith, and the injured woman appealed. The court of appeal agreed with the injured woman, pointing to basic contract law in its determination that the injured woman expressed her desire to settle under certain terms that were not met by the insurer.
Florida law requires the acceptance of an offer to be absolute, unconditional, and identical to the terms of the offer. Any acceptance must be a “mirror image” to the offer. If the acceptance does not line up, the new terms may be considered a counter-offer, which in turn needs to be accepted. The Court of Appeals considered the insurer’s terms to be a counter offer because they added parties beyond the original offer, referred to as “Releasees,” which was not a term used previously, and included the insurer’s agents and employees. The court felt the injured driver’s terms were clear. Only the insured was to be released from the claims. Since a formal agreement under the law was not reached, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s dismissal and allowed the suit to continue.
The Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston are dedicated to fully litigating your personal injury action. Our firm will tirelessly work to maximize the damages available, understanding every dollar is important to help you and your family get back to a more normal life. For a consultation today, contact our office at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.
More Blog Posts:
Florida District Appeals Court Reviews Notice Requirements for Insured to Receive Personal Injury Protection Benefits, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 13, 2015
Knowing How a Rejection of Uninsured/Underinsured Auto Insurance Coverage in Florida Affects You and Your Family, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 6, 2015