Offers of Judgment in Personal Injury Cases

Because there is no basis in the law to do so, complaints in personal injury cases do not, under normal circumstances, make a request for the payment of attorney fees by the defendant. Personal injury attorneys only get paid when they secure a settlement or win at trial. And, when that happens the Plaintiff pays an agreed upon percentage of the settlement or jury verdict. In this blog post, we will discuss what offers of judgment are and how they work in the context of personal injury cases. In federal court and under many state courts rules—a party may, within a certain number of days prior to trial to serve a written offer to the plaintiff to settle the personal injury case for a certain sum of money. Once the offer is received, the plaintiff then has a limited number of days to accept the offer or do nothing, in which case it is automatically rejected. If the plaintiff rejects the offer, then the offer is locked in and is no longer available for the plaintiff (unless the defendant voluntarily chooses to keep the offer on the table. Here’s the important part: If the case goes to trial and the plaintiff does not get an amount from the jury greater than the offer of judgment, the plaintiff is required to pay the defendant’s costs accrued from the time the offer was made until the end of the trial.

While there are legitimate advantages to offers of judgment in terms of encouraging settlements, there are also some potential unfairness problems. However, in many states—and in the federal system—only a defendant can make an offer of judgment. As such, while there is a pressure on the plaintiff to settle or face paying costs, there is no corresponding pressure on the defendant. The defendant can make an unreasonably low offer of judgment, thereby putting pressure on the plaintiff to accept it—without suffering any possible repercussions if the verdict is more, even much more, than what is offered. (In a few states, bad faith laws allow the plaintiff to get costs and attorney fees if the verdict is significantly higher than the offer; but in most states this is not available.) In states like Florida, either side can make an offer of judgment. The defendant can make an offer of judgment to the plaintiff and the plaintiff must pay the defendant’s costs if the verdict is less than the offer. In turn, the plaintiff can make an offer of judgment to the defendant and the defendant must pay the plaintiff’s costs if the verdict is more than the offer. In Florida, Fla. Stat. § 768.79 states that “In any civil action for damages filed in the courts of this state, if a defendant files an offer of judgment which is not accepted by the plaintiff within 30 days, the defendant shall be entitled to recover reasonable costs and attorney’s fees incurred by her or him or on the defendant’s behalf pursuant to a policy of liability insurance or other contract from the date of filing of the offer if the judgment is one of no liability or the judgment obtained by the plaintiff is at least 25 percent less than such offer, and the court shall set off such costs and attorney’s fees against the award”.

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Were you or someone you know hurt in a car crash in South Florida? Sadly, car crashes in South Florida occur at an alarming rate. It is extremely likely that you or someone you know has been involved or will be involved in a car accident at some point in your lifetime. From a minor fender bender, to a serious car accident, our team can help guide you through the process of filing an insurance claim against the negligent driver or filing a personal injury lawsuit for damages. If you have any questions or concerns about your personal injury case, contact one of our car accident attorneys! Call Our Injury Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation! Our skillful attorneys are genuinely committed to our clients. We will fight to make sure that you get the maximum amount of compensation owed to you. Let us help you get the medical care you need and fight to make sure you are compensated for your injuries! Our attorneys are ready to provide proven legal representation in pursuing your claim and stand ready to protect your rights. We are available 24/7 to give you a free, no risk case consultation.

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Jaime Suarez

An experienced legal personal injury defense professional in Miami, who is dedicated to helping accident victims with personal injury cases involving automobile accidents, brain and spinal cord injuries, slip and fall accidents, prescription errors, wrongful death, and accidents at work.