Your personal injury attorney must carefully consider any offer of pre-trial settlement by the defense in a civil case to better your chances you won’t run afoul of F.S. 768.79 at the conclusion of trial. The very first section of this statute stipulates that if a defendant files an offer of settlement that is not accepted by plaintiff within 30 days, defendant is entitled to “reasonable costs and attorney’s fees” incurred if the final judgment is that defendant was not liable OR the judgment obtained is at least 25 percent less than the original pre-trial settlement offer.
Obviously, there is no way to know for sure how a case is going to be decided or how much a plaintiff may be awarded in a successful case. That makes turning down settlement offers a risk. This is why having a personal injury lawyer with extensive local pre-trial negotiation and trial experience is invaluable. Knowing how such cases have gone in this same jurisdiction or in front of this same judge in the past is important to your case.
An example of this was recently weighed by the Alaska Supreme Court in Whittenton v. Peter Pan Seafoods, Inc. This was a truck accident case alleging vicarious liability of the negligent truck driver’s employer. The question was whether defendant’s offer of settlement prior to trial entitled defendant to collect attorney’s fees – even though plaintiff had won. Continue reading →