All the provisions you want to appear in the final decision should be included in the settlement agreement. For instance, it might only specify the sum that one party will reimburse the other party for. However, it might also include information about the due date or the purpose of the payment, and there may or may not be a liability admission.
Even if the situation changes later, it might be challenging to reopen a judgment once it has been signed. This means that anything a party wishes to be addressed in the settlement agreement must be addressed. There are times when a party may want to change the settlement agreement before or after it is filed.
Doing so is difficult and will require the help of an attorney. An experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer at John Foy & Associates can help establish and challenge a settlement agreement.
What Is a Settlement Agreement?
The purpose of a settlement in a personal injury case is the same regardless of the litigation’s stage. In a settlement, the plaintiff agrees to accept a certain amount in return for dropping their legal action. Settlement negotiations can be challenging for both parties.
Instead of taking a chance on not knowing what will happen if the matter goes through discovery and hearing or trial, the parties agree to a compromise and are certain of the outcome. A settlement enables all parties to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to the case.
Get the strong arm
When Are Parties Bound by a Settlement Agreement?
Until the opposing party accepts it, a settlement offer is not legally binding. A settlement offer is merely a suggestion to end the legal dispute. For an offer to be accepted and become legally binding, the parties must jointly decide how to resolve the dispute and file the necessary paperwork. A settlement offer shall not be deemed accepted unless accepted in writing by the other party. The jurisdiction of the lawsuit determines when a settlement agreement becomes enforceable.
When both parties sign a settlement agreement, it may become legally binding in some states. A settlement document may be enforceable even if it is handwritten on notebook paper if this is the law in the relevant jurisdiction. A settlement agreement is not legally enforceable in some states unless it is filed with the court and approved by the judge.
Settlement Agreements in Georgia
When an offer is made and subsequently accepted, a settlement agreement is made. This is referred to as a “meeting of the minds” by legal academics. However, it’s not always easy to tell whether a “meeting of the minds” has occurred.
Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a trial court’s decision to deny a move to enforce a settlement because there was no legally binding settlement agreement. Because the conditions of the offer were categorically rejected by her second insurer, the plaintiff did not unambiguously and without exception accept it through her first insurer.
The Court of Appeals, in previous cases and a more recent matter, stated that settlement agreements have to meet the same standards for formation and enforceability as other contracts. Without consent from both parties, a settlement is not enforceable. As a result, unless a response to an offer is unconditional and similar to the terms of the offer, it will not constitute an acceptance giving rise to a contract.
Canceling a Settlement Agreement
If all parties agree and the settlement has not been converted into a court order, it is permissible to withdraw from the agreement. If the other party disagrees, though, then there is a problem. In most cases, if a settlement agreement is established in good faith with the parties’ input, courts are reluctant to let a party withdraw from it. If the settlement agreement was created through deception or fraud, it might be revoked.
Depending on how the settlement agreement was created, a person may or may not be able to refuse to sign it. An oral agreement might not need a signature in order to be enforceable. It will be easier to comprehend how the court would rule on an oral agreement between the parties if you do some research on the local jurisdiction.
If there was a consensus and good faith agreement for the settlement, the court may schedule a hearing to make that determination. If so, it is doubtful that either side will decide to break the agreement, but it may be worth asking. Sometimes, the other side may be amendable to a modification in the agreement vs. canceling it altogether.
Overturning a Settlement Agreement
If you can prove that a settlement is flawed, you can have it overturned. If a settlement agreement is signed under duress or deception, it might not be legal. A settlement agreement may also be revoked due to a mistake made by both parties or a false statement made by the other party.
Even if new information prompts you to reevaluate the settlement, the validity of the agreement might not be affected. Settlement agreements that were obtained through deceit, fraud, or unjust terms may be revoked by the courts. However, the settlement can be implemented in accordance with a state’s code if a formal agreement is written. This means that if you break a valid contract, you might be held liable for damages if the ultimate decision goes against you.
Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney to File a Lawsuit
A lawyer may be needed because canceling a settlement agreement is a complicated process. A competent lawyer can examine the settlement agreement and ascertain the possibilities available under contract laws in Georgia. They can also offer suggestions and opinions on other solutions.
You will be in the best possible position to get a fair settlement by working with an expert personal injury lawyer. The attorneys at John Foy & Associates take great pleasure in being tenacious litigators and sympathetic counselors for our clients. Whether we are negotiating a settlement or taking your case to trial, we will be by your side throughout the entire process. Request a free case evaluation from us right away.
Call our office or complete the free case evaluation form on our contact page to arrange a meeting with one of our attorneys.