After a personal injury lawsuit is filed, the process of pretrial litigation begins. A defining feature of this process is the filing of motions. Motions are simply requests by a party for a court to order or decide something. For instance, in a personal injury case, filing motions can be necessary to protect a party’s rights when it comes to issues surrounding the procedure of the litigation, the process of discovery, or with regards to what evidence should or should not be admitted. Experienced attorneys who are good at “motion practice” can often win cases or force settlements before trial. Of all the pretrial motions that might be filed in a personal injury case, none is more significant than the motion for summary judgment.
A motion for summary judgment asks the court to render a final judgment on an issue. Generally, motions for summary judgment are filed by defendants in personal injury lawsuits. However, either party is free to file a motion for summary judgment. For instance, in cases where the facts clearly show that a defendant is liable, it may be possible to have a judge decide the issue of liability in favor of the plaintiff before the trial occurs by filing a summary judgment motion.
Defendants will often file summary judgment motions even when they have only a small chance of success. The reason is that if key issues such as liability can be decided on summary judgment, the time, expense, and stress of litigation and trial is completely avoided. Therefore, the mere fact that a defendant files a motion for summary judgment is not a signal that there is anything wrong with the plaintiff’s case. The summary judgment stage is just part of the litigation process.
The Summary Judgment Standard
The Official Code of Georgia § 9-11-56 establishes that a defendant may file a motion for summary judgment at any time after a lawsuit has been filed. A plaintiff must wait at least 30 days. The essential standard for a motion for summary judgment is that an issue can only be decided if there are no genuine issues of material fact. In other words, a judge may not decide key factual issues at the summary judgment stage. The party that files a summary judgment motion has the duty of proving that there are no genuine disputes of material fact as to the issue that they are requesting judgment on.
The Summary Judgment Process
After a party files a motion for summary judgment, the other party will have the opportunity to file an opposition brief. The initial party will then be able to file a reply. Upon request (and only upon request), the court will also usually schedule a hearing at which the parties will have an oral argument. Here, the parties will give a succinct summary of their argument and answer any questions the judge has. In many cases, a judge will decide the summary judgment at this hearing. Sometimes, a judge will consider what the parties have to say and make a ruling at a later date.
To Discuss Your Case, Contact Williams Elleby
Personal injury plaintiffs placed in a position of opposing a motion for summary judgment should understand that summary judgment motions can resolve an entire case. The experienced attorneys at Williams Elleby, have deep knowledge of Georgia negligence law and understand how to argue both for and against summary judgment in personal injury cases. If you have suffered a personal injury and would like to discuss your case, contact Williams Elleby, today by calling 833-LEGALGA or visit us at our Kennesaw, Georgia office on Frey Road near Kennesaw State University.