Settlement Agreements in Florida Should be Crystal Clear

Auto accidents happen every day in the state of Florida and throughout the United States. Dealing with the aftermath of an accident isn’t easy, and a number of things need to be considered, such as medical expenses, legal bills, property damage, and more. While our skilled Miami injury attorneys are prepared to zealously advocate for our clients in the courtroom, the reality is that most accident cases end in a settlement agreement before the matter ever reaches trial. It is vital that each settlement agreement be carefully read and understood before it is signed.

A settlement agreement is a legal document that contains the terms of a settlement made outside court. Most agreements include terms on release of liability for present and future claims, confidentiality clauses, and more. A settlement agreement should be reviewed diligently. If any terms of the agreement are not clear or satisfactory, they should be addressed prior to the agreement being codified.

In Cline v. Homuth, the plaintiff was riding his motorcycle when he was hit by a teenager driving his parents’ vehicle on a provisional license. The provisional license required the teenager to have a licensed driver in the vehicle with him at the time he was driving. The teenager’s grandmother was in the passenger seat at the time of the accident. The authorities determined it was the teenager’s fault.

The motorcyclist suffered severe injuries and subsequently sued the teen driver as well as his parents. The plaintiff’s medical expenses were in excess of $100,000, which was the amount of the teen driver’s parents’ insurance. The plaintiff asked for the full policy limit. The insurance company offered a settlement agreement to the plaintiff for the full amount as long as he would release the teen, the parents and “any other person, corporation, association or partnership responsible in any manner or degree for the injuries.”

The plaintiff signed the document and then filed a negligent supervision lawsuit against the grandmother. The grandmother moved for summary judgment, stating that she had been released from any liability given the “any other person” category in the settlement agreement signed by the plaintiff.

It is important to note that at no point during the settlement negotiations was it discussed that the grandmother would be released from liability. The grandmother’s name did not appear in the document. The plaintiff claimed that he would not have signed the agreement if he knew that it would forfeit his right to sue the grandmother.

The grandmother argued she was protected by the agreement even if she was not specifically named. The trial court agreed, and the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

While this case was decided in California, it highlights the importance of carefully reviewing each and every word in a settlement agreement. There should be no guesswork and no gray areas. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our experienced Miami motorcycle accident attorneys will work diligently to make sure your rights are protected. We proudly represent clients throughout South Florida. To find out about your options, contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878).

More Blog Posts:

The “Relation Back” Doctrine in Florida Injury Cases, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, April 29, 2015

Punitive Damages in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, April 29, 2015

Seeking Damages for Negligently Designed Roads in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, April 29, 2015
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