Expedited Civil Actions and Smaller Injury Cases

Traditionally, our law firm has not accepted very many smaller personal injury cases because the value of these cases did not economically justify the time we needed to spend to prepare them and take them to trial.

However, the Iowa Supreme Court recently established new procedures for what are called expedited civil actions. In expedited civil actions the maximum recovery for a party is $75,000.00.

The rules of the expedited civil actions are set up to allow the cases to be litigated much more efficiently:

  1. In expedited civil actions each side is limited to six hours of trial time. Each side can use their time however they want. However, time spent during jury selection, opening statement, presentation of direct testimony, cross examination of witnesses, and closing argument all count against each side’s six hour limit.
  2. A health care provider who actually treated the injured party can provide their opinions in a written form. This rule saves the considerable expense of obtaining a deposition or trial testimony from a treating physician.
  3. Many business records, public records and medical records can be admitted without the requirement of calling a custodian of the records as a trial witness to lay a foundation for the admission of the documents.
  4. Each side can only use one hired expert.
  5. Parties can serve no more than 10 Interrogatories, 10 Requests for Production of Documents, and 10 Requests for Admission. This is a significant reduction in the amount of discovery requests allowed in other civil actions.
  6. Cases brought as an expedited civil action needs to be tried within one year. The expedited civil action cases have priority over many other cases in the court system when conflicts come up over trial lots.
  7. Motions for Summary Judgment are severely limited.
  8. When a jury trial is requested the final jury will only be six jurors. Additionally, during the jury selection process each side is only allowed to exercise three strikes.
  9. Once the case is submitted to the jury, and the jury has considered the case for three hours, a verdict no longer has to be unanimous. After three hours a verdict may be entered based on a 5 to 1 vote.

We have tried many workers’ compensation cases over the years. Many of the features of the expedited civil actions are very similar to workers’ compensation cases. The trial time limits in workers’ compensation cases are even tighter than in expedited civil actions.

We feel very comfortable with the rules of the expedited civil actions. We are taking on cases to be tried as expedited civil actions, and are looking forward to working in this new system.

Please contact us if you are interested in pursuing an expedited civil action.