Contrary to what you might think, most personal injury claims arising from car accidents do not require a lengthy trial. Negligent defendants–and their insurance companies–are often willing to negotiate a settlement outside of court. But you should never feel pressured into accepting a settlement offer that does not fully compensate you for your injuries. Bear in mind the various expenses related to your car accident case including (but not limited to): lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills, car repairs, and ongoing medical treatments.
If you’ve been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident case, always work with an experienced car accident lawyer near you who can help ensure the other side does not try to take advantage of the settlement negotiations process.
Consider this recent decision from the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals here in Cleveland, Wilson v. Pride. This case involved a defense attempt to enforce what it deemed a legally binding settlement agreement with an auto accident victim. Although the trial court sided with the insurance company, the Eighth District reversed, finding no such agreement existed.
Here is some background on the case. The plaintiff was driving his vehicle when it collided with a Mack truck. The plaintiff subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the truck as well as his employer, who would be vicariously liable under Ohio law for its employee’s negligence.
The case was scheduled for trial in September 2018. In the days leading up to the trial date, attorneys for both sides attempted to negotiate a settlement. The defense claimed they reached an agreement to resolve the plaintiff’s claims for $25,000. About 20 minutes after this purported agreement, defense counsel informed the court there was a settlement. The plaintiff’s attorney then informed the court that there was no agreement.
In fact, there was never a written settlement agreement. Instead, the defense wanted to enforce what it considered an “oral agreement” with the plaintiff’s attorney. After holding a hearing, the trial judge decided to enforce the purported agreement.
But the Eighth District found there was “insufficient evidence to support the trial court’s finding that the parties had reached a settlement.” What the evidence did show was that the defense “offered to settle for $25,000” but the plaintiff “needed more clarification” regarding a key issue in the case. Specifically, the plaintiff wanted to know how the proposed $25,000 settlement would affect a previous lien filed by Medicaid, which paid for approximately $15,000 towards his accident-related medical bills.
Rather than provide the requested clarification, however, the defense rushed to tell the trial court there was a settlement. Defense counsel later admitted they never answered the plaintiff’s request for a clarification. Given this, the appeals court said there was no “meeting of the minds” between the parties, which is a necessary element to form a binding contract.
You should never rush to conclude settlement talks with any defendant or insurance company in a personal injury case. It’s important to carefully negotiate and understand each proposed term before you give your consent. And you should never engage in settlement talks without the assistance of an experienced Cleveland personal injury lawyer. Contact Tittle & Perlmutter if you have been injured in a car accident and need to speak with an attorney right away.