Truck accidents can cause substantial injuries and economic losses. Proving liability can be complicated, though, and in many instances, both parties will try to settle a case before trial. While negotiations typically will occur, if parties cannot agree on the essential terms of the settlement, the case will eventually be presented to a jury. In a recent opinion, a Florida court discussed what constitutes a valid agreement to settle in a case in which the defendant argued that it accepted the terms of an offer prior to trial. If you were injured in an accident with a tractor-trailer, it is prudent to speak with a skilled Florida truck accident attorney to determine whether you may have a viable claim for damages.
The Accident and Settlement Negotiations
It is alleged that the plaintiff suffered injuries in an accident with a dump truck owned by the defendant and driven by one of its employees. The plaintiff, who was working at the time of the accident, filed a workers’ compensation claim and then filed a lawsuit against the defendant. The workers’ compensation carrier then filed a notice of a lien against any settlement the plaintiff may obtain in the civil lawsuit.
It is reported that the plaintiff sent the defendant an offer to settle the matter for $500,000, to be paid to the plaintiff only. The defendant contacted the plaintiff’s attorney to request that the settlement include the satisfaction of the workers’ compensation lien. The plaintiff’s attorney refused, but the defendant sent the plaintiff’s counsel a check made payable to both the plaintiff and the workers’ compensation carrier. The plaintiff denied that the check created a valid settlement agreement, and the trial court agreed. Following a trial, the defendant appealed.
Forming a Valid Settlement Agreement
Under Florida law, a settlement offer must be in writing and must explicitly state who is making the offer and to whom, and the amount being offered. In other words, it must state with specificity all of the nonmonetary terms of the offer. General contract principles apply to settlement offers as well. This means that the parties must not only mean the same thing but must say the same thing. Thus, once an offer has been made, an acceptance has to be unconditional and absolute, and identical with the terms of the offer to be valid.
If a purported acceptance is not the mirror image of the offer, it will be considered a counteroffer that effectively rejects the initial offer. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the parties clearly disagreed as to the essential terms of the settlement, namely, who should receive the settlement check. Thus, the court found that by addressing the check to both the plaintiff and the workers’ compensation carrier, the defendant set forth a counteroffer, and no agreement was made.
Meet with a Skilled Florida Truck Accident Attorney
While settling a case is prudent in many truck accident cases, it is often impossible due to disputes over the terms of a potential agreement. If you sustained injuries in an accident with a tractor-trailer, you might be able to recover compensation and should meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. Jarrett Blakeley is a skilled truck accident attorney with the knowledge and experience needed to obtain fair and efficient resolutions, and he can advise you of your options for seeking damages for your harm. You can reach Mr. Blakeley at (800) 602-5000 or via the form online to set up a consultation.