The recovery period following a serious Florida car accident is different for everyone, but it is not an easy time for anyone. Aside from the physical trauma and emotional disturbance caused by the accident, there are the mounting medical bills, the time away from work, and the headache of dealing with insurance companies. Given these issues, it is understandable and expected that most victims of a Florida car accident are quite vulnerable for some time after the accident.
Sadly, insurance companies and savvy defense attorneys often use this time of vulnerability to approach and pressure accident victims into discussing – and potentially settling – their case. It is common to see Florida accident victims sign away the rights to pursue their case for just pennies on the dollar.
Even when the settlement agreement is a fair one, Florida car accident victims should consult with a knowledgeable attorney about the agreement’s fine print. Some settlement agreements contain unexpected language or are phrased in very broad terms that could cause problems for the accident victim if they choose to pursue a claim against other parties. A case that arose recently serves as a warning and excellent example of why it is essential to carefully read and negotiate the terms of a settlement agreement.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured in a car accident. According to the court’s opinion, at the time of the accident, the other car was being used to deliver food by Son, but owned by Mom. Shortly after the accident, the plaintiff decided to file a lawsuit against Son and Son’s employer. Approximately two weeks after that, the plaintiff agreed to a settlement agreement with Mom and her insurance company.
The terms of the settlement agreement consisted of the plaintiff receiving the policy limit of $25,000. In exchange the plaintiff would “release, acquit and forever discharge the said payor(s), their agents and employees, and all other persons, firms or corporations who are or might be liable” for his injuries. The agreement did not mention Son or Son’s employer.
In a motion for summary judgment, Son and his employer argued that the agreement between the plaintiff and Mom’s insurance company excused them from the present lawsuit due to its broad language.
The Court’s Opinion
The court started by acknowledging that the broad language of the agreement, when given its plain meaning, seemed to excuse Son and his employer. However, the court also noted that when one party to a contract is able to show mistaken intent, evidence outside the four corners of the contract can be considered to determine what the party’s intent was at the time she entered into the agreement.
In this case, the court ruled that the facts surrounding the execution of the settlement agreement between the plaintiff and Mom’s insurance company showed that she may not have intended to excuse Son and Son’s employer from the lawsuit. The court relied on the fact that Mom was never named in the plaintiff’s lawsuit, and that Son and Son’s employer were never mentioned in the settlement agreement. Additionally, the court noted that the plaintiff did not withdraw her case against Son and Son’s employer after the execution of the settlement agreement, which she would have been required to do had the agreement included those parties.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Car Accident?
If you have recently been in a Florida car accident, and believe the other driver to have been at fault, contact the dedicated South Florida personal injury firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims in all types of claims, including Florida car accident cases across Florida, including in Miami, Naples, and Miami Beach. To learn more, call 877-448-8787 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Discusses Caterer’s Liability in Recent Food-Poisoning Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 19, 2018.
Florida Court Dismisses Slip-and-Fall Case, Finding the Hazard Causing the Plaintiff’s Fall Was “Open and Obvious”, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 13, 2018.