According to the most recent estimates, approximately 95% of civil cases are resolved through pre-trial settlement negotiations. While it may seem that an attorney’s assistance is not necessary with the chances being so high that a case will not make it to trial, the exact opposite is true. Virginia personal injury attorneys are crucial to negotiating favorable settlement offers, and ensuring that the terms of the offer are fair to their client.
A settlement agreement is a contract between the parties. Most often, the agreement is that the plaintiff will withdraw their case against the defendant and in return, the defendant will provide some amount of compensation to the plaintiff. Normally, the amount of compensation provided to the plaintiff is less than it would likely be if the plaintiff were to succeed at trial; however, the plaintiff is provided with the certainty that they will be recovering a given sum for their injuries
Virginia personal injury plaintiffs should take care in executing a settlement agreement because these are binding contracts. A recent case illustrates one potential problem that a plaintiff may face when executing a settlement agreement with some, but not all, of the potentially liable parties.
Facts of the Case
The plaintiff sustained injuries in a vehicle accident when he was struck by a delivery truck driver. The delivery vehicle was owned and insured by a third-party who was related to the driver. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and the driver’s employer. Then, a few weeks later, the plaintiff executed an agreement to settlement document with the vehicle’s owner.
The settlement agreement did not include the names of the delivery driver or his employer, but stated that the plaintiff would release and forever discharge the payor of the settlement (plus their agents and employees) who might be liable in exchange for the policy limit under the owner’s policy.
As the case against the delivery driver and his employer proceeded towards trial, those defendants filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that the settlement agreement between the plaintiff and the owner of the vehicle also excused them from liability. The plaintiff claimed that those defendants were not a party to that agreement and should not be able to claim any benefit from it.
The court did not decide whether the settlement agreement included the named defendants and excused them from liability but allowed the plaintiff’s lawsuit to proceed towards trial so that a jury could make that determination. The court also held that because the plaintiff presented evidence that her intent was to settle only the claims against the vehicle’s owner, the plaintiff would be permitted to present extrinsic evidence that was probative of her intent at the time she entered into the agreement.
Were You Injured in a Virginia Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a serious Virginia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from one or more sources. Attorney Sidney Schupak is a dedicated Virginia personal injury attorney with decades of experience assisting his clients to obtain the compensation they deserve after being seriously injured in all types of Virginia car accidents. To learn more, and to speak with Attorney Schupak about your case, call 703-491-7070 to schedule your free consultation today.
See More Blog Posts:
Court Discusses Instructor’s Duty and Potential Liability in Recent Yoga Injury Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, September 13, 2018.
Accident Victims Can Stack Underinsured Motorist Policies in Virginia, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, September 28, 2018.