Going to trial in a car accident case is expensive. The cost of combing through medical records, police reports and hiring expert witnesses to testify as to reconstruction of the crash and extent of injuries – all of it adds up quickly.
This is part of the reason why it’s important to hire a legal team with ample existing resources willing to take your case on a contingency basis. That means you don’t pay unless you win.
But it’s also part of the reason why the courts allowed for parties involved in the case to make “Requests for Admission.” At the federal level, there is Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In Florida, it is Rule 1.370 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Requests for admission provides a way that each party can ask the other to admit certain facts within the scope of the case that relate to facts, application of law or opinions about the veracity or genuineness of records.
The whole purpose is to reduce trial time and expense by cutting down on the amount of effort needed to prove certain facts.
So for example, plaintiffs in a traffic accident lawsuit may ask defendant to admit he rear-ended the vehicle or that his mother owned the vehicle he was driving or that plaintiff was not negligent for the accident.
Both sides must be very careful how they respond to these requests because certain admissions could result in summary judgment for the other side.
On the other hand, failure to respond or to respond in good faith has its own consequences. For one thing, the court could find that if one party willfully failed to respond to a request for admissions that those requests will be considered “admitted,” or the facts decided in favor of the requesting party. And under some statutes, the requesting party may seek monetary redress for the reimbursement of the cost of having to prove facts that should have been admitted.
Car accident victims in Grace v. Mansourian prevailed in their personal injury lawsuit against a driver who reportedly ran a red light, crashed into another vehicle and caused a man serious injury to his ankle. Jurors awarded him $400,000 and his wife $30,000 for loss of consortium.
But once that action was completed, plaintiffs filed another claim for nearly $200,000 for failure to admit certain requests of admission. In California, where this case takes place, the law specifically states that if a party makes requests for admission of truth of certain facts and responding party denies those requests and those facts are later proven true, the party who made the request can seek an award of reasonable costs and attorney fees incurred for proving those facts.
Here, defendant car struck a car driven by plaintiff. Defendant later told a traffic investigator he thought the light was yellow. A witness stated he ran the red light.
Plaintiff suffered injury and sued for medical expenses, loss of property, wage loss, loss of earning capacity and loss of consortium.
Plaintiff served a request for admissions to defendant, asking defendant to admit he failed to stop at the red light, the failure was negligent, the failure was the actual cause of the accident, that it was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s injuries and that plaintiff was not negligent.
Defendant denied all of these admissions.
Plaintiff then sought admissions from defense regarding the reasonableness of plaintiff’s medical treatment and care standards, along with other admissions. Defendant again denied.
Jurors decided the case in favor of plaintiff and awarded damages.
In filing for recovery for failure to admit certain requests for admissions, plaintiff reported substantial costs incurred.
Trial court initially denied this request, but the California Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, reversed and remanded. The court found there was substantial evidence to support plaintiff’s assertions of liability, causation and damages. Although defendant argued his “belief” that he hadn’t run the red light was sufficient to support a denial of these requests, the appeals court disagreed. The court indicated there was substantial evidence to prove fault, which meant defendant’s belief – no matter how strongly-held – wasn’t reasonable, and thus he should have conceded on these points prior to trial. Failure to do so has now cost him a substantial amount of money.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Grace v. Mansourian , Sept. 15, 2015, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three
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