What is a Lawsuit Settlement?

In the State of Florida, the majority of civil cases are resolved by settlement. Settlement is a resolution of a legal dispute by agreement of the plaintiff and defendant, rather than determined by a judge or a jury. A civil case can settle before a civil action is initiated, or can settle at any time before a final decision is made by a jury.

According to the Florida Bar Association, there were 401,463 civil dispositions from 2009 to 2010 but just 879 of the cases were resolved by a jury trial. This means only .2 percent of cases went all the way through the civil justice system. This is a decline from the 1986 to 1987 fiscal year, when 1.6 percent of civil cases went to a jury trial.

Settlements must be negotiated between a plaintiff and defendant, and settling a case is optional. Florida Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 1.442 explains the rules for settlement proposals. Proposals to settle must be in writing, and must identify the Florida statute which applies.

The parties making and receiving the proposal should be named, and the proposal should state that it would resolve all damages which could otherwise be awarded in a final judgment in the civil case which is being settled.  The settlement also must clearly state any relevant conditions of the settlement, as well as the total amount of money involved and any non-monetary terms and conditions of the settlement.

Plaintiffs and defendants do not have to agree to settle, but settlement can be preferable because it provides more certainty for plaintiffs and defendants. Defendants can save on legal fees when a case settles, while plaintiffs can avoid the stress of litigation. Plaintiffs who agree to settle should be certain the settlement provides full and fair compensation, as a settlement is final once agreed to.