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Witness Credibility in Florida Personal Injury Cases

One of the most important aspects of a Florida personal injury case is the credibility of the witnesses that a party plans to call at trial. Indeed, in many Florida car accident claims, the case comes down to a “he said, she said” situation where one witness’ testimony is directly contradicted by another’s. When this is the case, ultimately, the jury must determine which party’s witnesses were more credible.

Before a Florida personal injury case ever reaches trial, the defendant will likely file a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s case is insufficient as a matter of law. Essentially, when a defendant files a summary judgment motion, they are claiming that the important factual issues necessary to decide the case are not contested, and when the court applies the law to these facts, a defense verdict is warranted.

Importantly, summary judgment is appropriate only if the defendant can show there are no issues of material fact that must be resolved by the jury, and the defendant is entitled judgment as a matter of law. Thus, there are two ways to defeat a motion for summary judgment. First, the plaintiff can show that there is at least one issue of material fact that is not resolved by the evidence presented thus far. Second, the plaintiff can argue that when the law is applied to the uncontested facts, a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor is appropriate. So, while a witness’ credibility is of critical importance at trial, it is almost irrelevant in a motion for summary judgment. A recent state appellate decision illustrates this concept.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was jogging in the middle of the road as the defendant approached from behind in a vehicle. As the defendant passed the plaintiff, the plaintiff was struck by the defendant’s vehicle and was seriously injured as a result. The plaintiff sued the defendant, claiming that his injuries were the result of the defendant’s negligence.

The plaintiff and defendant provided very different explanations of the events leading up to the accident. According to the plaintiff, the defendant ran a red light, clipping the plaintiff as he tried to navigate back into his lane. However, according to the defendant, the plaintiff darted into traffic and struck his vehicle.

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. The court, however, rejected the defendant’s argument, noting that to survive a defense motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff only need present some evidence tending to prove each of the elements of his claim. Here, the court explained that the plaintiff’s testimony raised an issue as to whether the defendant was negligent. The court went on to explain that the fact that the defendant offered contradictory testimony only created a material issue of fact that needed to be resolved by a jury.

Are You Looking for a Dedicated South Florida Injury Lawyer?

If you or someone you love has been the victim of a South Florida car accident, the dedicated Florida personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank can help. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we have decades of collective experience representing Florida accident victims pursue claims for compensation against those who are responsible for their injuries. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

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