Experienced Greenville Car Accident Lawyers Explain the Common Motions in a Car Accident Lawsuit and How They May Impact Your Case in South Carolina
One of the most common types of personal injury cases is a car accident case. Indeed, each year in the United States, there are almost 47,000 traffic-related fatalities and 5.4 million traffic-related injuries due to car accidents. Unfortunately, South Carolina has the highest percentage of deaths per mile driven, with 2.08 deaths per 1000 vehicle miles driven when the national average is 1.37; the lowest is Massachusetts with .71, and the next highest is Arkansas with 1.80. As a result of these motor vehicle accidents, the total costs are over $430 billion each year. Some of these costs are charged against victims, who may be entitled to recover them from a defendant and the defendant’s insurance company. Although some insurance carriers will fairly pay out claims, our experienced Greenville car accident lawyers know that some will not. This often leads to litigation, where there are many common motions in a car accident lawsuit that could impact the recovery.
Here at Hammack Law Firm, we know how important motion practice can be to your car accident case. Indeed, motions can be used to help solve problems with your case, strike inappropriate defenses, or even expedite recovery. However, some motions can be used to attack your case, which requires a proper and thorough defense. Victims and their families in South Carolina need to be aware of these motions to help their attorney prepare, but they also need to hire a competent and skilled car accident lawyer to begin with—before any motions can be filed. To learn more about how our experienced Greenville car accident lawyers can help you, call our personal injury law firm to schedule a free consultation.
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What is a Motion and When Can They Be Filed?
Although the term “motion” may seem intimidating, a motion is really just any application for an order made to a court or judge. Depending on the type of case, motions can be on paper (written) or made orally (verbally in court). As a result of this, motions may also be formal (with exhibits, memoranda of law, affidavits, and other proof), or they can be made informally with just legal arguments. To that end, motions can be made at practically any time in a lawsuit – including right at commencement or even post-judgment.
Common Types of Motions in a Car Accident Lawsuit in South Carolina
Generally, there are six broad types of motions that could be filed in a car accident case. Each has a different purpose and a different time that they may be filed. These motions include the following:
– Discovery motions
– Accelerated judgment
– Corrective or Protective
– Trial, and
Of these broad types of motions, the most common include the following:
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Discovery is the part of a lawsuit where the parties exchange information, such as medicals,
accident reports, and other evidence. Discovery motions relate to this process and include the following types of motions:
– Pre-commencement (really at the time of commencement) seeking to obtain or protect evidence (such as a truck’s black box/ECM data)
– For a protective order (to shield privileged information)
– To compel discovery (when the other party won’t play nice in the sandbox)
– For spoilation or destruction of evidence
– To set a discovery schedule when there are multiple parties or parties purposely dragging
– For a subpoena for certain records, or to compel a witness to provide testimony, and
– Other possible discovery-related motions in a car accident case.
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Accelerated Judgment Motions
These types of motions are meant to end a case before it goes to trial, those to seek a judgment before the natural end of a case. Generally, there are two main types of accelerated judgment motions in South Carolina, which include the following:
- Motion to Dismiss: this is a type of motion that usually occurs at the start of the lawsuit and is a type of pre-trial motion and pre-answer motion – meaning that it occurs before trial and before the defendant has served an answer to the allegations in the complaint. Usually, a motion to dismiss is attacking the claim on a procedural basis, such as though the lawsuit was untimely or served the wrong party. Both parties can file a motion to dismiss, although plaintiffs usually only file it as it relates to limited affirmative defenses (or legal excuses) used by a defendant.
- Motion for Summary Judgment: this type of motion is also pre-trial but usually happens later in the litigation and after the completion of some or all of discovery. This motion is made by a party that tells the court that the material facts are not in dispute and, based on the law, I win, and we do not need to go to trial. Said differently, a party tells a court that the facts and the law dictate only one result, and the court should grant that now. Both parties can seek a motion for summary judgment, although it is most common for a defendant to seek this relief.
Corrective or Protective Motions
As discovery continues and the facts of the case are understood, the parties may file corrective or protective motions. These motions are tailored to their allegations in their pleadings, meaning their formal claims. Whereas protective motions are made to bar the other party from doing something that is not proper under the law or the facts, such as something that may be prejudicial or irrelevant.
Examples of these types of motions in a car accident lawsuit in South Carolina include the following:
– Motions to Amend – a party may file a motion to amend their pleading to change the
allegations or to conform the allegations to the proof. Sometimes, a motion to amend will
even add an entirely new cause of action or claim.
– Motion for a protective order or to preclude – this is a type of motion that attacks the
other party’s ability to assert a claim or to use a piece of evidence that was obtained in
discovery. An example of this would be using hearsay that is not supported in the record.
– Motion to strike – where a party uses evidence or claims that it was either 1) told not to
use by the court or 2) had not previously disclosed (like a new expert witness), a party
may move to strike that claim or evidence.
Usually made just before trial in the form of a motion in limine, evidentiary motions can be made at trial and are used to help shape what evidence is presented to the court and the jury. Such motions are used to limit certain evidence by precluding it or to allow such evidence. Some motions in limine may be very narrow and just allow certain records to be used for a certain purpose, but no other purpose.
An example of that would be where the defendant wants to use a police accident report that
blamed the victim for the crash when discovery later determined that it was actually the
defendant who was at fault. A victim’s attorney could file a motion in limine to limit the police accident report, having the police officer’s allegations blacked out and only allowing the accident report in for the basic information about the accident (date, time, location, parties, and related facts). This can be a complicated type of motion to make, which is why victims need to hire an experienced car accident lawyer in Greenville, like ours, right from the start.
There are also certain motions that could be made at trial. In fact, nearly all of the motions above could be made at trial. However, there are different types of motions that replace those for accelerated judgment. Some of these motions and other trial motions include the following:
– Motion for a directed verdict – at the end of the plaintiff’s proof, either party (usually
the defendant) will move for a directed verdict, saying that the plaintiff has not proven his
or her case at trial, and that the court should direct the verdict to be in the defendant’s
favor. Most judges will “reserve” on this and then resolve this motion at the end of trial
or allow post-trial motion practice.
– Motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict – at the end of trial and after the
jury comes to a verdict, an aggrieved party (who lost a specific claim or the entire case)
may move for a judgment from the court that is contrary to the verdict rendered by the jury. Essentially, this motion argues that the jury got it wrong, and the court should assess the evidence and rule the opposite way. This is a tough motion to win and requires the evidence to be so overwhelmingly slanted in favor of the party who lost to win. Due to this, it is always important to hire an experienced Greenville car accident lawyer ahead of your trial because if you hire an inexperienced lawyer who loses your case, it is very hard to undo that mistake.
– Motion for a Mistrial – if the other party engages in truly prejudicial conduct, the other party may ask for a mistrial
– For Limiting Instructions – a party may ask that the judge issue “limiting instructions” as to an issue that might be prejudicial but might not be significant enough to result in a mistrial. This includes when a defendant “accidentally” says something that was barred by the court’s prior orders.
These types of motions are used after a verdict and judgment are issued. They may be related to an appeal, such as settling the record, or they may be used to attack the verdict/judgment. Other types of post-judgment motions can be used to enforce a judgment, such as ensuring the defendant pays up or to set up an infant settlement/annuity for a minor child who is injured in a car accident.
Still Unsure of the Common Motions in a Car Accident Lawsuit in South Carolina? Call Our Experienced Greenville Car Accident Lawyers for Help
The motions above are very important and can have a huge impact on your lawsuit, both supporting your case and potentially harming your case. This list of common motions in a car accident lawsuit is not exhaustive, and there are many other types of motions that could be made in a personal injury lawsuit. Although most lawyers will know the motions above, it is the motions that are not as well known that could also help your case immensely. That’s why having a skilled and experienced car accident lawyer in Greenville, South Carolina, is imperative to protecting your rights.
Here at Hammack Law Firm, our compassionate and skilled team knows how to use motion practice to help shape your liability claim and your damages. We also know how to fight back and defend against motions that may hurt your case. To learn more about how we can help you and protect your rights under South Carolina law, please call (864) 428-7591 or contact us here.