Offers Of Settlement Do Not Expire At Close Of Business Unless The Offer Says So

Car Accidents

In the case of H. Greg Lee, personal representative of the estate of Raymond Consul, v. Mark Chmielewski, as guardian of Matthew Martin, Case Number 2D17-4275 (Fla. 2d DCA November 15, 2019), Florida’s Second DCA held that GEICO was not required to accept an offer of settlement by the close of business but instead had the entire day to do so.

Uncanny Confusion

This case involved a tragic car accident that injured Matthew Martin and left him in a permanent vegetative state. Consul, who caused the accident, was insured by GEICO with a $10,000 per person bodily injury liability limit.

GEICO first tendered the $10,000 policy limit to Matthew’s father, Michael Martin, under the mistaken belief that he held a durable power of attorney for his son. It turned out that he did not and Mr. Martin cashed the check and executed a release on behalf of his son anyway (It is unclear whether GEICO intends to sue Mr. Martin for the $10,000).

In any event, the fact that Mr. Martin did not have the legal authority to settle his son’s claim meant that there was no settlement at that point in time. Thereafter, Chmielewski was eventually appointed guardian over Matthew. When Chmielewski learned about the $10,000 settlement with Matthew’s father, he retained counsel who made a proper demand for the $10,000.

Without excessive detail, GEICO tried to accept the conditions of Chmielewski’s demand letter by tendering a check for $10,000 and delivering it the attorney’s office. By the time that a representative from GEICO arrived, it was past normal business hours and the attorney’s office was closed. There was not a way for the representative to leave a check.

The employee returned the next day and left the check with an employee of the law firm. It is also important to mention that GEICO sent correspondence accepting the terms of the demand letter on the day that the demand expired.

The attorney’s office, having received the check the day after the demand expired, filed a lawsuit resulting in a $14 million verdict and it became an insurance bad faith issue.

Without Specifying A Time, GEICO Had The Entire Day To Accept

The trial judge found that there was not a settlement because GEICO failed to tender the settlement funds as required by the offer. This meant that there was not a mirror image offer and acceptance that was absolute and unconditional.

The Second DCA disagreed and reversed. They said even though it may have been reasonable for the attorney’s office to close at the end of normal business hours, there was not a limitation in the demand letter itself to a certain time of day. This meant that GEICO had the entire day to accept the offer and not just until the close of normal business hours.

Talk To A Lakeland Car Accident Attorney About Your Case

With missteps like these by the insurance company, it is hard to know what you should be doing to properly get your case settled. This is where having a car accident attorney on your side helps. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with a Lakeland car accident attorney at Russo Law.

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November 21, 2019