Can You Win Your Injury Case and Owe Money to the Other Side?
Here is a riddle: How can you win your personal injury case, have the jury award you money…and then you end up owing money to the Defendant—the person or business that caused you the injury? Believe it or not this strange scenario happens, all because of Florida’s Offer of Judgment (OJ) statute.
Offers of Judgment
Many years ago, the Florida legislature wanted to encourage parties to settle their cases, and bring fewer cases to trial. To “incentivize” parties to settle, Florida created the OJ statute, and its counterpart, the Proposal for Settlement. Understanding both of these laws requires doing a little math.
The law allows either party to make a proposal to the other side to settle a case. The proposal has got to be grounded in some reality, and be a good faith estimate of the value of the case, or the likelihood that the jury is going to find in the offering party’s favor.
Rules of the Offers
If the Defendant makes you (the victim) an offer and you accept it, the case is over and settled at the amount of the offer. But if you do not accept the offer, and you go to trial, and recover 25% less than the offer, you will have to pay the Defendant’s attorneys fees.
Let’s look at this numerically. Say the Defendant offers to settle your case for $15,000. Twenty-five percent less of that is $11,250. You say no to the original $15,000 offer, you go to trial, and the jury awards you $10,000. You have not met the $11,250 threshold. That means you owe the Defendant its attorneys fees, which could be way more than the $10,000 the jury just awarded you. You now owe money to the Defendant.
The Victim’s Offers to Defendants
It works the other way also. If you make an offer to settle the case to the Defendant, and the Defendant rejects your offer, and the jury ultimately awards you 25% more than the offer the Defendant originally made, you will be entitled to recover your attorneys’ fees.
So let’s now assume you offered to settle your case for $100,000. The Defendant says no. If the jury awards more than $125,000, you would be entitled to both the amount awarded, plus your attorneys’ fees.
Any kind of offer made under the statute will be provided to you in writing, and you (or the Defendant) have 30 days to consider what you want to do with it. If you do nothing, the offer is considered rejected.
Although these laws can be scary, as you risk owing money to the Defendant in smaller-value cases if you do not accept their offer, your attorney will weigh the pros and cons with you, and help you make an educated decision about whether to accept or reject the offer.
Get help if you are injured in any type of accident. Contact the Miami personal injury attorneys at Velasquez & Associates P.A. today with any questions you may have.