Last time, we discussed how even though someone pursuing a civil lawsuit — from a car accident to a breach of contract — might have visions of a prolonged courtroom battle thanks to their favorite films and novels, research has actually shown that 95 percent of cases settle before trial.
To that end, we also began discussing an attorney’s duties as they relate to settlement offers in civil matters, examining Rule 4-1.2(a) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, which makes it very clear that they are bound to follow whatever decisions a client makes concerning acceptance or rejection.
We’ll continue our discussion in today’s post, focusing on communication of settlement offers.
Do the Rules of Professional Conduct adopt a similar stance regarding communication of settlement offers?
Rule 4-1.4(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct declares that attorneys are bound to “promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent … is required.”
According to the commentary to the rule, this means an attorney must not delay in sharing any settlement offers with their clients and must secure their consent prior to taking any sort of action concerning the offer.
What if the client has already informed the attorney what they want to do regarding a settlement offer?
The commentary to Rule 4-1.4(a) declares that an attorney can indeed abstain from communicating a settlement offer in a civil matter and even move forward on their own if prior discussions with the client have established what actions he or she wants them to take.
As such, if an attorney receives a settlement offer, they do not have to inform a client who has previously established the parameters of what is an unacceptable or acceptable offer, or authorized them to reject or accept the offer on their behalf.
Here’s hoping the following information has helped clear up any confusion surrounding a very important aspect of the attorney-client relationship.
Consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you have questions or concerns relating to the issue of an improper settlement.