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.
The driver filed a claim against the mechanic for negligence in fixing the tire. The mechanic denied having ever performed any work on his vehicle, stating that he had never visited their shop and that he would have received confirmation paperwork. At the end of discovery, the mechanic moved for summary judgment, claiming that there was not enough evidence to prove that the plaintiff ever actually visited the mechanic, or that one of the mechanic’s employees repaired the tire.
The lower court granted the motion for summary judgment, which the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that there was sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact—whether or not he visited the mechanic and had his car serviced there. On summary judgment claims, the court is not supposed to weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations, but only decide whether or not there was a dispute. The court ultimately agreed with the plaintiff because he had provided enough evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact, meaning the case should go to a jury to weigh the evidence and ultimately decide the case.
Have You Been Injured In a Florida Accident?
If you or someone you love has been injured in a Florida car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Personal injury lawsuits can be complicated, but can also provide plaintiffs with deserved compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and more. For assistance through every stage of your claim, contact the attorneys at Frankl Kominsky, Personal Injury Lawyers. Our dedicated attorneys have years of experience representing Florida victims in all types of personal injury claims, from medical malpractice to product liability. To learn more, call us today at 561-660-9562 for a free initial consultation.