If you're pursuing a personal injury claim, it's important to understand what can happen if a motion to dismiss the case is filed. Motions to dismiss are very common in personal injury lawsuits—defendants often file them right after they receive notice of the lawsuit, claiming that there are no grounds to proceed with the lawsuit. However, problems can also crop up on the plaintiff's side that can make it necessary to file the motion as well. This is what you should know.
Dismissal can be voluntary or involuntary.
A voluntary dismissal means that you and your attorney are asking the court to halt the proceedings. For example, if the defendant's insurance company offers you a settlement right before trial begins and you decide to accept, that's a good reason to ask the court for a dismissal. Since you are the injured party, the court will generally allow you to stop the case from moving forward.
An involuntary dismissal means that the judge is dismissing the case against your wishes. Most of the time, that's because the defense has presented a strong argument that there are one or more serious flaws in your case:
- the court doesn't have the proper jurisdiction, or authority, to hear the case
- the lawsuit does not clearly state enough facts that, if given to be true, would make the defendant liable for your injuries
- the statute of limitations, or time limit within which you can file, has already expired
- the defendant was never properly served with notice of the lawsuit
Either way, the dismissal stops any judgment on the case, and no other issues outside of the reason for the dismissal will be discussed.
Dismissal can be with or without prejudice.
If the judge dismisses your case with prejudice, your case is very likely over for good—whether you requested the dismissal on your own or not. Dismissing a case with prejudice prevents you from ever filing a lawsuit on the same issue again, no matter what new information comes to light or how the situation changes.
This is very common when plaintiffs accept a settlement in return for their agreement not to pursue the case any further, but it also happens in cases with serious flaws that can't be overcome. For example, if the case is outside the statute of limitations, the judge may dismiss it with prejudice because there's no possibility of overcoming the issue.
If the judge dismisses the case without prejudice, you still have the option to refile it at a later time. This often happens when there's a flaw in the case that can be corrected. For example, if the judge agrees that the paperwork doesn't clearly explain why the defendant should be held liable for your injuries, the judge will probably dismiss without prejudice and allow you to refile with additional information.
For more information, contact Shaw Leslie Law Office or a similar firm.