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Default Judgments: What are They and How Common are They?

There is more than one way to prevail in your California personal injury lawsuit. Of course, you will prevail and be awarded monetary damages if your case proceeds to trial before a judge and/or jury and the factfinder determines that the defendant(s) in your case were, in fact, at fault in causing damages in some regard. If the facts of the case are not in serious dispute, you may be entitled to a judgment in your favor as a matter of law. If that defendant does not respond and contest the claim, you may prevail in your personal injury lawsuit by obtaining a default judgment. While this latter method of obtaining a favorable judgment involves the least effort, it is not an easy method by which to succeed.

What is a Default Judgment? 

In order for a lawsuit to proceed to trial, there must be at least two parties whose interests are diverse and who participate in the civil litigation process. If one party fails to participate by failing or refusing to file any answer to the initial pleading and/or failing to show up for court hearings as scheduled, a court may find that the party has acquiesced to the allegations made by the participating party. In this situation, the court will conclude that there is in fact no real controversy, no controverted facts, and the participating party is entitled to a judgment by default as his or her allegations and facts are the only ones before the court.

Why is it Hard to Win By Default Judgment, Then? 

The courts favor litigation as a resolution to disputes as opposed to victories that come about as the result of a “procedural” tricks, mistakes or lack of action. America’s adversarial system is believed to be one of the most effective ways to determine the truth in a case. The court may forgive inaction if that party presents him- or herself soon after a “default judgment” has been entered and shows the court why he or she failed to respond or participate in the lawsuit earlier. A court’s decision to give a party in default a chance to cure that default is very difficult to successfully appeal or challenge.  The courts want to give everybody a chance to have their day in court.

Can a California Attorney Assist Me? 

Even if default judgments are not favored, it is better not be in a position of default trying to explain why the court should not enter a default judgment against you. If you are a defendant, by retaining the services of Heiting & Irwin, you can be assured that we will take appropriate action on your personal injury lawsuit at the appropriate time to avoid or cure defaults. If you retain our services after defaulting in the case, we may be able to convince the court that reopening your case and vacating the default judgment is in the interests of justice.  If you are a plaintiff (the injured party), we have been effective at finding the quickest and most efficient means to get you a successful resolution or judgment. Call us right away to discuss your case at (951) 682-6440 or contact us online for help.

Dennis Stout

Dennis Stout is a native Californian with significant ties to the Inland Empire, where he continues to reside. A graduate of Upland High School, the University of California, Riverside (B.S. Economics), and the University of La Verne (J.D.), Mr. Stout has practiced law continuously since 1979. He has been married to his wife, Alicia (R.N., C.E.N., M.I.C.N.) since that same year, and they have three adult children, all of whom live in Southern California. View Attorney Dennis Stout's Attorney Bio Here.

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