What are an attorney's duties concerning settlement offers?

When a person makes the decision to proceed with a civil lawsuit, whether relating to a business dispute, motor vehicle accident or some other important matter, chances are good that they are envisioning some type of prolonged courtroom battle complete with witnesses, objections and no shortage of conflict.

While this is sometimes what transpires, the reality is that more often than not, civil lawsuits are resolved before any party sets foot in the courtroom. Indeed, research has shown that an astounding 95 percent of cases are resolved prior to trial.

This naturally raises the question as to what exactly an attorney's duties are as they relate to settlement offers in civil matters.

What do the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct say about this issue?   

Rule 4-1.2(a) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct declares that attorneys are required to abide by their client's decisions concerning the objectives of representation and reasonably consult with them as to the methods through which this will be accomplished.

More significantly, it goes on to expressly declare that an attorney "shall abide by a client's decision whether to settle a matter." In the event there is any lingering doubt that the authority as to when and how much to settle for rests solely with the client, consider also that the comment to the rule similarly declares that the decision to settle a civil matter must be made by the client.

Can an attorney counsel against accepting a settlement offer?

Yes, an attorney can counsel a client against accepting a settlement offer if they believe it's too low or based on incomplete information. However, they are bound to follow whatever decision the client makes concerning acceptance or rejection, and, as we'll explore in our next post, to ensure that they communicate the settlement offer in the first place.

If you have questions or concerns relating to the issue of an improper settlement, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can provide answers and pursue solutions.

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