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Summary Judgment And Personal Injury Cases

Most Massachusetts personal injury claims settle through negotiation. Attorneys and claims adjusters resolve these cases each and every day. If settlement proves impossible, then frequently these cases can be mediated or arbitrated. Sometimes however these cases must be put into litigation. After that happens, sometimes they are dismissed. One vehicle used by insurance companies and their attorneys to get cases dismissed is through summary judgment. Here is some information on summary judgment and personal injury cases.

Rule 56 of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure outlines summary judgment. Either party to a lawsuit (plaintiff or defendant) may use this procedural device. Summary judgment is frequently used with premises liability claims. For example, suppose you slip and fall in a store and you break your wrist. The cause of the fall was liquid or some other slippery substance. The insurance company’s lawyer may file for summary judgment and claim the store had no notice of the liquid being on the floor, and therefore could not have been expected to clean it up before the fall. Depending on the particular facts of that case, or any case, it is up to a judge to decide if summary judgment is warranted.

Legally, summary judgment basically means that a jury would not find in favor of the plaintiff (the injured party who brought the lawsuit) so therefore, the case must be dismissed without the need for additional litigation. Summary judgment is seldom used with motor vehicle accident claims in Massachusetts, and does not apply workers’ compensation cases.

When a party wants to “move” for summary judgement, they must follow a strict procedure. They must file the necessary paperwork with opposing counsel. Then, once the opposition to summary judgment is received, it may be filed with the proper court. Later, the matter will be scheduled for hearing and the parties will go to court and argue their respective positions to the judge, who will send written notice to all attorneys as to whether the motion for summary judgement was allowed or denied.