Settlement Offers as Admissions of Liability
When a defendant offers to settle a personal injury case, the injured party may believe that the settlement offer constitutes an admission of liability. However, this is not the case. In fact, most settlement offers specifically deny such an admission. Settlement offers are sometimes made simply to end troublesome litigation.
Rules of Evidence
Keeping issues discussed during settlement negotiations private serves the public interest. Settlement communications are unlikely to be effective unless the parties involved feel free to propose solutions without fear of their proposals being seen as an admission of liability. Rule 408 of both the Federal Rules of Evidence and Texas Rules of Evidence excludes negotiations and offers to compromise from evidence when they are used to establish liability. This means that settlement offers cannot be used as proof of fault.
In many jurisdictions, settlement offers are completely inadmissible as evidence during the trial, meaning that a lawyer cannot even mention that an offer was made or considered. These exclusions of evidence under Rule 408 are based on two principles:
- First, any evidence related to the settlement is considered irrelevant since settlement offers may be driven by a goal of avoiding expensive legal challenges, a desire for peace, or for other reasons unrelated to the validity of the claim.
- Secondly, settlement-related evidence is excluded as a means of amicably resolving lawsuits.
Exception to Rule 408
Even when evidence is governed by Rule 408, it isn’t automatically inadmissible for any purpose. Rule 408 prohibits the admission of settlement evidence only when it’s provided to prove or disprove the legitimacy or amount of a disputed claim. However, the admission of settlement-related evidence is permitted for other purposes.
You Need an Attorney
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you deserve compensation. Settlement negotiations are often lengthy and complex, and you need representation by an experienced attorney. Contact the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.