Summary Judgment for Personal Injury Cases


Navigating the legal landscape after suffering a personal injury can be daunting. For many personal injury victims, the prospect of a long, drawn-out court case can compound the stress of recovery. However, there is a legal recourse that offers an opportunity for a swifter resolution: summary judgment.

This powerful weapon in a personal injury victim's arsenal, when used effectively, can lead to expedited closure, cost savings, and a clear evaluation of the strength of their case. That said, it can be just as powerful a tool for defendants seeking a quick resolution in their favor.

In this guide, we'll explore what summary judgment means for personal injury cases, who stands to benefit, and the potential risks involved.

Understanding Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is a legal mechanism used to expedite court cases where there is no dispute on the key facts, or where the law is so clear that the judge can apply it without needing a full trial.

In a personal injury case, this means that if the evidence presented leads to only one possible conclusion, the judge can decide the case without a full trial. The process involves a motion filed by the defendant or plaintiff seeking a judgment before the trial. Both parties present their evidence, and if the facts are clear and there is no need for a jury to weigh evidence, the judge can rule without a trial, potentially on the spot, or after further consideration.

Advantages & Risks of Seeking Summary Judgment

Because either side of a personal injury dispute can file a motion for summary judgment, it’s important to understand the benefits and risks of doing so. What is a benefit to one side is often a risk to the other.

Expedited Resolution

The biggest advantage is time. Traditional trials can drag on for months or even years due to court backlogs. A successful motion for summary judgment can lead to a resolution of your case in a fraction of that time.

Cost Savings

Lengthy trials are not just time-consuming; they can be extremely expensive. With a summary judgment, personal injury plaintiffs and defendants can potentially avoid incurring substantial legal fees for a full-blown trial.

Case Strength Evaluation

By seeking summary judgment, plaintiffs are effectively forcing the defendant to show their hand. If the defendant can't refute the evidence, it's a strong indication that the plaintiff's case is solid. If the defendant puts forward a compelling counterargument, the plaintiff's legal team now has a better idea of what they're up against.

Additional Risks for Personal Injury Victims

While there are clear benefits to pursuing summary judgment, it's not without risk. Plaintiffs can have their cases thrown out before they get a chance to present their full evidence if they fail to convince the judge that their case is watertight without a trial.

Failing the 'No Dispute' Threshold

The court will only grant summary judgment if there is no genuine dispute over the facts. If the defense can create any doubt in the minds of the judge or the law is not clear-cut, summary judgment may be denied.

Unforeseen Legal Issues

Sometimes, seemingly clear-cut cases can run into unanticipated legal problems that a full trial might have uncovered. Without the opportunity to fully present their case, plaintiffs risk missing these potential pitfalls that could spell the end of a summary judgment in their favor.

Burden of Proof

The burden is on the plaintiff to prove that the defendant is responsible for their injuries. This burden is not lightened in a summary judgment; the plaintiff must provide clear, compelling evidence that leaves no room for doubt in the judge's mind.

Seek Experienced Legal Representation

The road to recovery can be long and arduous. Summary judgment offers a pathway to expedited justice, but it doesn’t come without considerable risks for a plaintiff. With the right legal support and a thorough understanding of the process, personal injury victims can leverage the power of summary judgment to their advantage. It's an opportunity that should not be overlooked when striving for efficient and fair legal redress.

If you have a personal injury claim and wish to discuss it with an experienced attorney, contact the Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser today.