So you’ve filed your complaint in a personal injury matter, and the defendants have answered the complaint. You’ve deposed witnesses, produced all relevant documents and answered all interrogatories. You’re ready to go to trial, right? Not so fast…there are still a number of steps to be completed before opening arguments are made.
The Motion Phase of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
There are a number of compelling reasons to resolve many trial-related issues before a jury is called. First of all, you may be able to avoid a trial completely, based on the evidence (or lack thereof) obtained during the discovery period. Additionally, there may be evidence that a court will rule inadmissible, but you don’t want to wait until a jury has heard or seen the evidence to have the court declare that it’s improper. The jury will be hard-pressed to forget what they’ve already seen and heard, even if the judge tells them to do so.
With those objectives in mind, the court typically entertains two types of motions before trial: dispositive motions and evidentiary motions:
- Dispositive motions—One of the goals of the discovery phase is to identify what evidence each party has to support its claim. What evidence does the injured party have to prove all the elements of negligence by the defendant? What evidence does the defendant have that would absolve him or her from liability? If multiple claims are made by the plaintiff, is there evidence to support all of them? Accordingly, based on testimony and evidence obtained, either party may ask the court (by filing a motion) for some type of judgment before trial. A plaintiff may allege that the defendant hasn’t stated a valid defense and ask for “summary judgment” finding the defendant liable. On the other hand, the defendant may contend that the plaintiff hasn’t produced evidence to support one of more claims, and may ask the court to dismiss some or all of them.
- Evidentiary motions—During depositions, witnesses are under oath, but there’s no judge present to rule on the admissibility of evidence or the propriety of certain questions. Accordingly, the parties will typically state an objection to a question or answer, so that it’s preserved on the record. The parties will then ask the judge to rule on those issues before trial, so that jurors are not exposed to potentially inadmissible evidence.
Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates
To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside personal injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.