Settlement Negotiations in Indiana
Oct. 31, 2014
Northwest Indiana personal injury lawyer explains why a judge will never let you discuss settlement negotiations in trial.
This is a typical story, a person is injured because the defendant did something wrong and the parties discuss possible settlement. During the settlement negotiations, the defendant admits that he was at fault for the accident or he admits that the person was injured. Settlement negotiations break down and the client wants to bring this information up at trial. An Indiana judge will not allow information that was exchanged during settlement negotiations into evidence. So the jury will never learn that the defendant admitted that he was at fault or that he agreed the client was injured if these concessions only came out during settlement negotiations. Why is that? To answer the question, we have to look at Indiana Rule of Evidence 408.
Evidence of (1) furnishing or offering or promising to furnish, or (2) accepting or offering or promising to accept a valuable consideration in compromising or attempting to compromise a claim, which was disputed as to either validity or amount, is not admissible to prove liability for or invalidity of the claim or its amount. Evidence of conduct or statements made in compromise negotiations is likewise not admissible. This rule does not require exclusion when the evidence is offered for another purpose, such as proving bias or prejudice of a witness, negating a contention of undue delay, or proving an effort to obstruct a criminal investigation or prosecution. Compromise negotiations encompass alternative dispute resolution.
What is the Purpose of the Rule 408?
The intent behind this rule of evidence is to foster settlement negotiations so claims and cases can be settled without court intervention. If folks cannot be frank and honest or make concessions during settlement negotiations for fear that what they say will be used against them, then a lot of cases will not settle. So the public policy in Indiana is that parties to a claim should be free to talk about their respective positions without it coming back to hurt them if the case doesn't resolve before trial.
Indiana personal injury law can be complex at times. If you have any questions about a Northwest Indiana injury or accident case, you can call our Michigan City personal injury lawyers or fill out the internet consultation form on the right.