In many personal injury cases, there will be more than one individual at fault. That means that you must sue more than one person to be fully compensated. Each person at fault should have to pay damages related to their percentage of the fault. But, what happens when you settle with one defendant? Does that mean you can still go forward with the case on the other defendants?
Can I Settle With One Defendant and Not the Other?
The short answer to this question is “yes”. You can settle with one party while still pursuing a claim against another party all the way to trial. The settlement allows you to have partial compensation quickly while also being able to pursue damages from other parties.
Florida is a “pure apportionment” state or a “pure comparative fault” state. That means that each wrongdoer is only responsible for his or her portion of the damage caused.
This factor, thankfully, means that parties involved in cases that have multiple defendants are more willing to settle. Without this type of system, the defendants settling may have to pay the other defendants back to cover their portion of the damages, making many defendants less eager to settle.
What is the “Empty Chair”?
The jury can see whom you settled with at the end of the trial. They can still apportion fault to this other party. This method is known as the “empty chair”. When you have an “empty chair” the other defendants might try to place more blame on that party while you try to assign blame to the parties that are left at trial.
Whether you settle with one defendant before a trial is obviously a strategic move that your attorney will help you decide. Your attorney may not be able to shift fault away from both you and the “empty chair” at trial well, so that is something you will need to discuss with your personal injury lawyer.
Is Settling With One Defendant a Good Idea?
A case with more than one defendant can be confusing—to say the least. These types of cases can end in one of two ways. Settling with one defendant and not the others may work out well for your case. On the other hand, it could make your case more difficult.
You will need to work with an experienced Florida personal injury attorneys to help you decide how you should approach this type of case, call us at 561-687-5660.