Settlements in Car Accident Cases – Alamo Financing v. Mazoff

Settlement is often a quick and efficient method of resolving personal injury claims. The option lets parties negotiate an agreement that works for them without spending the time and money that is typically required in a lawsuit setting. While settlements seem like the easy option, it is important to remember that settlement offers must be clear and unambiguous to be valid. In some cases, a party who rejects a settlement agreement and then subsequently loses his or her case may be responsible for some of the opposing party’s costs and fees.

In Alamo Financing v. Mazoff, the plaintiff Mazoff filed a lawsuit seeking damages from Alamo Financing and Paola Alvarado-Fernandez. Alamo Financing was the owner of the vehicle that was being rented by Alvarado-Fernandez at the time of the accident. She hit an overturned car that subsequently hit Mazoff. Mazoff had gotten out of the car to help the occupants of the overturned vehicle when he was hit, and he suffered injuries as a result.

To end the matter, Alamo extended a settlement offer to Mazoff for a monetary amount in order to resolve “all claims made in the present action by the party to whom this proposal is made including any claims that could be made against [Alamo] which arise out of the same occurrence or event set forth in this action.” Mazoff failed to respond for over a month, at which point Alamo assumed he rejected the settlement offer.

A trial court later granted summary judgment to Alamo but also permitted Mazoff to file an amended complaint to sue Alamo Rental. Mazoff claimed that Alamo was responsible for not checking Fernandez’s license thoroughly before renting the vehicle to her. The court also rejected Alamo’s argument that Mazoff was responsible for its attorney fees due to the fact that he rejected the initial settlement offer, which would have eliminated litigation costs. The court noted that the terms of the agreement were ambiguous.

The appellate court disagreed with the lower court and stated that any potential ambiguity was resolved because the terms of the proposal were “sufficiently clear” to allow Mazoff to make an informed decision without requiring clarification. Specifically, while the proposal could have been drafted better, it wasn’t fatally unclear. The agreement only named Alamo Financing as the party making the proposal, and it was clear that only Alamo would be released from the lawsuit, not Fernandez. Thus, the settlement contained enough information for Mazoff to be able to accept or reject it.

Dealing with the aftermath of an automobile accident is never easy. We understand the financial and physical toll an accident can have on you and your entire family. If you or someone close to you has been injured in an automobile accident, it is important to seek the guidance of a highly skilled Miami car crash attorney. Robert Dixon has helped countless clients in auto accident cases and understands what it takes to represent clients successfully. We are dedicated to maximizing our client’s recovery. You can expect the utmost professionalism from our entire team. To learn more, you can contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.

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Plaintiffs in Negligence Cases Must Establish the Duty of Care – Down v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,  South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, August 5, 2014

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