In the case of Basner v. Bergdoll, Case Number 1D19-562 (Fla. 1st DCA October 23, 2019), Florida’s First DCA held that a handwritten modification to an insurance release was a counteroffer and that a settlement was not made.
This case arose out of a 2017 car accident. The insurance company for the Bergdolls’ tendered policy limits of $50,000 along with a release of all claims in an attempt to settle. The Basners scratched out one of the Bergdolls’ names on the release (the driver), held onto the check instead of cashing it, and attached a handwritten note that said “Do we have to release the driver?”
The insurance company did not respond after receiving this. Months later, another attorney for the Basners returned the check and notified the insurance company that they would be pursuing litigation. The insurance company claimed that there was a settlement.
In the lawsuit, the insurance company moved for summary judgment trying to enforce the settlement. The trial court granted the summary judgment for the insurance company finding that a settlement had been effectuated.
Modification Was Considered A Counteroffer
Settlement agreements in Florida are considered creatures of basic contract law. In this particular case, it was clear that scratching out a name on a release functioned as a rejection of the original offer and a counteroffer since a new term was added. See below for authority:
Central Props., Inc. v. Robbinson, 450 So. 2d 277 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984); see also Grant v. Lyons, 17 So. 3d 708 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009) (noting that counteroffers are created by adding additional terms or not meeting the terms of the original offer).
The result of this situation, if the case goes to a trial and there is a verdict that exceeds the policy limits, then an insurance bad faith case may be the result.
Talk To A Personal Injury Or Car Accident Attorney About Your Case
Don’t let the insurance company push you around. They are not always right and they aren’t looking out for your best interests. This case is a prime example of that where they tried to force the injured plaintiffs into compliance with their will. There is no telling how many other cases exist that we don’t know about because the injured plaintiffs listened to the insurance company.
This is where having an attorney of your own makes all the difference in the world. This is exactly what we do at Russo Law. Call us to discuss your Lakeland car accident case and get your free consultation today.