What happens when you file a lawsuit and the defendant doesn’t respond? Perhaps they hope that it will just go away? It doesn’t. In order to address cases whereby defendants are non-responsive, our justice system has a mechanism referred to as default judgment. However, simply not receiving a response does not necessarily mean that you may be entitled to a default judgment. There are certain requirements that must be met.
A recent decision entered by the United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division gives a thorough explanation of how a default judgment works in the context of a negligence lawusit following an injury car accident.
In the case, Mata v. Gallon, Dist. Court, M.D. Ga. (2013), the plaintiff filed a lawsuit following a car accident. According to her testimony, the defendant hit the car in which the plaintiff was traveling, as a result of speeding and losing control of his vehicle. As a result, the plaintiff was ejected from the vehicle she was in. Plaintiff was hospitalized for approximately three weeks for the severe injuries she suffered as a result of the collision. These included injuries to her neck and back, skull fractures, spinal column injuries, jaw injuries, and loss of an eye. Due to her jaw and skull injuries, plaintiff’s jaw had to be wired shut for some six weeks, and metal plates were placed in her face and head.
Throughout the opinion, the court discusses the lengths at which the plaintiff went to in order to serve notice of the lawsuit, which was filed in March 2012, and when no response was had, motion for default judgment against the defendant, in June of 2013.
The court heard testimony and evidence from the plaintiff at a hearing in October of 2013 concerning the matter of default judgment and damages. While both the plaintiff and her attorney were present, neither the defendant nor any representative for him appeared at the hearing.
Because this lawsuit was filed in federal court, it follows the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court recants the relevant Rule 55, which states that, “[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party’s default.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). In order to grant the motion, the court thoroughly explains, it must ensure that the all of the allegations are well set forth, and that there is a sufficient, substantive basis for granting the relief sought.
Here, the court looks to the relevant underlying state law, which is Georgia law in this case. Under Georgia law, a party asserting a claim for personal injury has the burden of pleading and proving that defendant owed a duty of care to plaintiff, this duty was breached, and the breach was proximate cause of damages. On the basis of her pleadings, the court held that the plaintiff sufficiently established all of these elements.
Additionally, when it comes to damages, the court must ensure that there is a legitimate basis for entering any award. The plaintiff’s evidence, which included medical bills, pictures of her injuries, and evidence of her continued medical complications and lost wages provided a sufficient basis for her claim of $750,000.00. This claim included amounts for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of earnings. No evidence was presented to indicate that Plaintiff’s requests for damages were unreasonable or without basis.
Therefore, the court entered a default judgment for the plaintiff, for the full amount of damages requested. The end of the order stated that the decision could be appealed within fourteen days.
Securing a default judgment, as explicitly set forth by the District Court in this case, requires that all of your filings and legal pleadings set forth all of the necessary information required to be entitled to a judgment. Any omission could potentially affect your claim. The safest way to ensure watertight pleadings is to hire an experienced Georgia car accident attorney.
If you have been injured in car accident due to another individual’s negligent driving, the first thing you should do after seeking medical treatment and contacting law enforcement, is to contact an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney as soon as possible. As one of the most sought-after personal injury attorneys in the State, Mr. Ozcomert combines over 20 years of litigation experience and caring dedication to provide you with the best possible legal representation. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 in order to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.
More Blog Posts:
Georgia Court of Appeals Rules Expert Testimony not Required for Causation of Back Injuries in Car Accident Cases, Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published November 25, 2013
Atlanta District Court Affirms Need for Proof of Causation in Car Accidents Raising Medical Questions, Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published November 18, 2013