What Is the Summary Judgement Stage in Indiana Personal Injury Cases?

Many Indiana personal injury cases do not make it to trial. Instead, the parties agree to settle the case. Frequently, cases settle after the parties have progressed past the summary judgment stage. Parties often use the summary judgment stage as a barometer for how their case would fare if it were to go to trial.

The summary judgment stage occurs before a case is listed for trial, and is used by courts to weed out cases or claims that do not have merit. Typically, in a summary judgment motion, the judge will consider all the uncontested evidence and make a determination if the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If there is conflicting evidence regarding a material issue in the case, summary judgment is not appropriate.

Every state is free to craft their own summary judgment standard, within reason. For example, the federal system uses what is called the “no evidence” approach. Under this standard, the moving party can succeed in their motion if they are able to show that the other party does not have any evidence supporting their claims. Defendants in personal injury lawsuits frequently file summary judgment motions in no-evidence jurisdictions because doing so is simple and there is little to lose (and potentially quite a bit to gain).

Indiana courts, however, use a different summary judgment standard. Specifically, the Indiana standard requires that the moving party presents evidence negating an element of the opposing party’s claim. This is an important distinction because the moving party cannot merely rest on an accusation of insufficient evidence. Instead, the moving party must present some affirmative evidence disproving the plaintiff’s case. Thus, it is much more difficult for a defendant in an Indiana personal injury lawsuit to successfully file a motion for summary judgment.

The Indiana Supreme Court acknowledged that its rule imposes a high standard on defendants filing summary judgment motions. However, the court explained that it “consciously errs on the side of letting marginal cases proceed to trial on the merits, rather than risk short-circuiting meritorious claims.” The court’s rationale makes sense, because if a plaintiff’s claim is marginal, there should be little for the named defendants to worry about. However, if the court imposed a lower standard, as many jurisdictions across the country do, it is certain that at least some meritorious cases would be dismissed.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Personal Injury Accident?

If another person’s negligent conduct caused you injury, whether it be in an Indiana car wreck, slip-and-fall accident, or incident of medical malpractice, the experienced attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse can help. At our Indiana personal injury law firm, we represent injury victims and their families in all types of claims. We provide our clients with first-rate service throughout their case, and always ensure that clients are kept up to date on the status of their claim. To learn more, and to speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your situation, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.

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