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Defending Yourself Against Summary Judgments

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Litigating an auto accident case can be very expensive, costing up to $30,000 or more in some areas, which is why so many defendants choose to settle rather than go to court. When they do go to trial, defendants will often request summary judgments, which is a motion asking judges to decide on the cases immediately rather than letting the trials continue. Here are a couple of reasons why a judge may grant a summary judgment in your case and what you can do about it.

All Factual Issues Are Apparent

Court trials are for solving disputes. If the parties in the case cannot agree on certain issues, they present their cases to the court and let the judge or jury decide. However, if the parties agree on all the facts relevant to the case, there really isn't any need to spend days, weeks, or months hashing things out. Thus, a judge will typically approve the motion for summary judgment if the only thing you and the defendant are arguing about is how much money he or she owes you.

If all issues are truly settled, then letting the summary judgment go unchallenged is a good strategy because the defendant will be forced to pay if the judge decides in your favor.

However, defendants will claim there aren't any factual disputes when there actually are in an effort to get the case essentially dismissed. In this situation, you'll need to present evidence that counters what the defendant is saying. This will typically involve submitting a list of issues to the court where you and the defendant differ in opinion, supported by depositions and discovery. As long as the factual disputes are triable (i.e., able to be investigated and decided upon) and have the potential to affect the outcome of the case, the judge will usually deny the summary motion and let the trial continue.

The Majority of Facts Support One Side

Another reason why a defendant may win a motion for summary judgment is if the majority of the facts in the case support his or her version of events. This typically occurs in cases where the plaintiff cannot produce enough evidence to counter the defendant's claims, even though there may be a dispute about the facts of the case. When the facts are lopsided in this fashion, the judge may feel that letting the trial continue would be a waste of time and resources because the outcome is so obvious. Thus, he or she will rule in favor of the defendant.

This issue can be tough to overcome because you will either have to come up with more evidence supporting your version of events or invalidate the defendant's evidence enough to force the court to let the case continue. This can be very challenging depending on the circumstances of the case.

If you're not able to do either of these things, the alternative would be to find some way to get the defendant to agree to a settlement, or you could sue the person using a different tort that you have ample evidence to support. For instance, you may not be able to adequately prove the defendant was responsible for your physical injuries, but might have sufficient evidence to show he or she did damage your vehicle in an auto collision.

Even if the defendant manages to win a summary judgment, you can always appeal the decision. However, both defending a summary judgement and appealing one can be complex matters, which is why you definitely want to hire a personal injury attorney to help you with your case. For more information about this issue or to hire someone to represent your interests in an auto accident lawsuit, contact a local auto accident lawyer.