A Lack of a Valid Settlement and Release Meant that a Massachusetts Driver Was Entitled to the Damages a Jury Awarded Her

Legal News GavelWhen you file a lawsuit as a result of your auto accident injuries, there are several steps in the process. One of these may be exploring the possibility of a mutually acceptable settlement. An important thing to note about settlement negotiations and settlement agreements is that they are much like any other form of contract negotiations and contractual agreements. They require one side to make an offer, and the other side must accept that offer. There must be a “meeting of the minds” about the terms of the agreement. Without those things, a settlement agreement isn’t valid. When it comes to deciding whether to settle or litigate your injury case, it pays to have the advice and representation of a knowledgeable Plymouth County car accident attorney.

The existence (or lack thereof) of a valid settlement was a central dispute in one recent auto accident case. Frances was the driver of a vehicle that was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Edy. As is common in many civil cases, the opposing sides both worked toward trial and discussed the possibility of settling the case out of court. Eventually, Frances’ case went to trial, and the jury found in her favor, awarding her $52,000 in damages.

Edy appealed that judgment. The centerpiece of his appeal was that Frances was not entitled to the damages award handed down by the jury because the two sides had already settled the case, and Edy had been released from liability in exchange for agreeing to the settlement. Edy also argued that, if the court did not throw out the jury’s damages award, it should at least reduce it by the amount that Frances’ auto insurer had already paid out.

The key question in this case was:  did the two drivers have a valid settlement? The Appeals Court concluded that the lower court was correct in finding that they did not. One reason these two opposing sides did not was because of the specific details of their proposed agreement. If a settlement agreement states that there are preconditions, those requirements must be fulfilled first, or else there is no binding agreement. The settlement between Frances and Edy had what the court called a “material precondition,” which was the production of certain affidavits. Those affidavits were never produced. Since that production never happened, there was no binding agreement to settle the case and no release of Edy from the lawsuit.

Additionally, the appeals court made it clear that the amounts Frances’ insurer paid to her should have no impact on the amount of damages she was entitled to recover from Edy. The court explained that, to the extent that Frances may have been the beneficiary of a double recovery, “the solution lies in the “payback” duty of … her automobile insurance policy — not in relieving the defendant of the damages assessed by the jury against him.”

Pursuing compensation for your auto accident injuries typically involves making many extremely important choices. Don’t tread this path alone. Reach out to experienced Plymouth County car accident lawyer Michael S. Mehrmann, who has been providing effective representation to injured people from across Plymouth County, including in Kingston, Plymouth, Marshfield, Hanson, Carver, Pembroke, and Duxbury, for many years. To find out more about how this office can assist you, call (781) 585-3911 or contact us online.

More Blog Posts:

Getting Your Day in Court for Your Massachusetts Auto Accident Case, Plymouth County Injury Lawyer Blog, March 8, 2018

Enforcing the Settlement You Achieved Through Mediation in Your Massachusetts Auto Accident Case, Plymouth County Injury Lawyer Blog, Dec. 22, 2017