What is an "Offer of Judgment?"

And "offer of judgment" is a device allowed for in the civil rules of procedure to encourage settlements. A defendant files an "offer of judgment" with the plaintiff or the plaintiff's attorney, spelling out a specific settlement proposal, including whether or not the offer includes attorney fees or costs.

Under the rule, the plaintiff has a certain amount of time, seven days, to respond to the offer of judgment. If the plaintiff accepts the offer, the plaintiff signs the offer, and files the document with the court. The parties then create a stipulated judgment, and the case is resolved. What happens if you decide not to accept the offer?

The offer of judgment is somewhat like a "dare."  If the plaintiff does not accept the offer, and the case goes to trial, the outcome of the trial could determine how much the plaintiff can recover for costs. If the plaintiff does not obtain a verdict greater than the amount in the offer of judgment, then the plaintiff is not able to include any costs incurred after the date of the offer of judgment as part of the award filed with the court.

The term "costs" refers to items that a plaintiff can recover with a successful verdict in court. Typical examples include the cost of subpoenaing witnesses, jury trial fees, and a prevailing party fee.

If you have an injury claim, and want to know more about how the process works, order our free book, or contact us at 503-325-8600. We work with clients every day on these kinds of issues.