A central part of resolving any Florida car accident case is negotiation with insurers. You may not need to go to trial or even file a lawsuit. But you will almost certainly be negotiating with at least one insurer at some point. Some folks feel comfortable handling this themselves, but for reasons laid out in this blog post, they might want to think twice. If you botch the negotiation by turning down a fair car accident settlement offer from the insurer, you could lose everything – even with a winning case.
For one thing, it’s common for auto insurance companies to lowball claimants. If you accept that initial offer, you will forgo any chance of collecting more in the future, even if you later realize your damages are much greater.
For another thing, Florida statute explicitly incentivizes parties to accept a fair car accident settlement offers. It also penalizes those who don’t. F.S. 768.79 says that in any civil action for damages filed in state court, if one side offers the other a settlement that isn’t accepted and the subsequent final judgment of the court is within 25% of that earlier settlement amount, the side that rejected the settlement has to pay the other’s court costs and attorney’s fees.
For example, let’s say you’re suing for $100,000, and the defendant extends a Florida car accident settlement offer of $80,000. You reject it, take the case to court, and the final judgment is for $90,000. That is within 25% of what you were offered to settle. Even though you won, you now have to pay the defense attorney’s fees (as well as your own) out of your winnings. If costs and attorney’s fees amount to more than the final judgment, the court will enter a judgement in favor of the defendant and you’ll owe them.
The trickiest part of all is that without an experienced car accident lawyer, you won’t have a strong sense of what is truly fair and what isn’t. If you aren’t confident about what your case is really worth, you could end up with far less than you deserve – either by accepting far too little and forgoing your right to ask for more OR refusing a settlement that’s totally fair based on the facts.
By working with a knowledgeable Cape Coral car accident attorney, you get the assurance of knowing when an insurance settlement offer is reasonable and when it isn’t.
Proper Valuation of Florida Crash Cases
Proper valuation of a crash case for purposes of determining a fair car accident settlement isn’t simple math. Some of the factors that weigh into what a case is worth include:
- The severity of your injuries and past and future medical care recomendations.
- How many other people were injured.
- Maximum insurance available (which depends on how many parties are at fault, including at-fault driver, vicariously liable vehicle owners and/or driver employers, plaintiff’s UM/UIM coverage, strictly liable vehicle manufacturers, etc.).
- Whether the claimant is comparatively negligent/shares some of the blame.
- Is the conduct of the defendant particularly egregious.
- Whether punitive damages are a factor (primarily in DUI accidents).
- How difficult it will be to prove the extent of your damages.
In some cases, we may recommend hiring a jury consultant or life care planner to help us best estimate the proper valuation of the case, we can also do jury verdict research and of course factor in our past settlements and trial verdicts. This can go a long way toward demonstrating not only your good faith in negotiations but also showing the insurance company that you have a strong, well-supported claim and are serious about pursuing it.
We also need to keep in mind that trials take both time and money. If there was a trial for every car accident claim filed, Florida courts would never get anything done and it would cost taxpayers a fortune. That’s a big part of why legislators so strongly incentivized accepting fair car accident settlement offers. Knowing when it’s in your best interest to accept an offer — and when it isn’t — requires having the insight of a legal advocate who is highly skilled and successful in this area of the law.
If you have been injured in Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, Cape Coral, Naples, or Key West, contact Garvin Injury Law at 800.977.7017 for a free consultation.
SETTLEMENT OFFERS AND PERSONAL INJURY: IDENTIFYING THE BREAK-EVEN OFFER, February 2000, By Jerry Reiss and Richard Ryles, The Florida Bar
More Blog Entries:
What Florida Motorcyclists Need to Know About the State’s New Negligence Law, May 30, 2023, Cape Coral Car Accident Lawyer Blog