When people picture filing a lawsuit in court, they often imagine attorneys arguing in front of a judge along with heated debates and objections. While this is sometimes true, what many Florida personal injury plaintiffs do not realize is that many cases are actually decided before they even get to trial, through a process called “summary judgment.”
After a plaintiff files an initial complaint and the evidence has been collected, both parties can file a motion for summary judgment, asking the judge to go ahead and decide that they won the case. Summary judgment is appropriate in cases where there is no dispute of material fact, so both parties agree on what happened and the law entitles one of them to a victory. For instance, if both parties agree that the defendant driver ran a red light and caused an accident, then the suit can be settled before trial.
While the above example sounds relatively simple, typically lawsuits are more complicated. For example, a state court of appeals recently reversed a wrongly decided grant of summary judgment for a defendant in a personal injury claim. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was driving to Tampa when he got a flat tire and visited a mechanic. At the mechanic’s, he paid an employee $20 to service the tire, although he never got any confirmation paperwork. However, when he was driving back to Miami, his tire blew out, causing him to crash into the median. As a result of this crash, he suffered serious injuries, and, as a result, is now a paraplegic.