Settlement Agreements in Indiana Personal Injury Cases

When a victim of a car accident files an Indiana personal injury lawsuit against the party they believe was responsible for causing their injuries, the case proceeds through a number of stages before it goes to trial. Through each stage, the parties learn a little more about the strength of their case, the opposing party’s likely arguments, and the amount of damages that may be recovered by the plaintiff if she is successful.

At any time up to and during a trial, the parties can agree to settle the case. At its core, a settlement agreement is a contract between the parties. The details contained in an Indiana settlement agreement vary widely, but in general the defendant would agree to compensate the plaintiff an agreed amount of money and, in turn, the plaintiff would release the defendant from liability related to the accident.

Of course, Indiana settlement agreements must be carefully drafted. In the event that an agreement leaves questions unanswered or uses overly broad language, certain issues can arise. In a recent personal injury case, the plaintiff’s attempt to settle a case with several liable parties almost resulted in excusing other parties that the plaintiff did not intend to excuse from the case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident when her vehicle was struck by a delivery driver. After the accident, the plaintiff agreed to a settlement agreement with several parties and then filed a personal injury lawsuit against the remaining parties. The settlement agreement stated the plaintiff would release from liability the settlement payors and any other parties who might be associated with the accident and the subsequent court proceedings.

The defendants who were named in the personal injury lawsuit claimed that the broad language in the settlement agreement effectively excused not just the parties named in the agreement from liability, but that is excused all parties. The plaintiff claimed that was not the case, and that he never intended to excuse the named defendants from the lawsuit.

The court had to decide whether the plaintiff should be permitted to introduce extrinsic evidence of her intent at the time the agreement was executed. The court explained that the general rule is that extrinsic evidence cannot be considered when interpreting the terms of a contract. However, in situations where there is evidence of mistaken intent, a court can consider extrinsic evidence.

Here, the court held that there was evidence of the plaintiff’s mistaken intent. The court noted that the plaintiff executed the settlement agreement within weeks of filing the lawsuit and that the settlement agreement did not mention any of the named defendants. Additionally, the court pointed out that the plaintiff never included the names of the parties in the settlement agreement in the lawsuit. These facts, the court held, were sufficient to show that the plaintiff did not intend to excuse all parties by executing the settlement agreement.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana car accident, the dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse can help. We have been representing Indiana injury victims for decades, and have a keen understanding of how to persuasively present our clients’ cases in hopes of obtaining a fair settlement offer. To discuss your case with a dedicated Indiana injury lawyers, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation.

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How Courts Apply the Indiana Recreational-Use Statute, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, September 28, 2018

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