Jurisdiction and Venue for Personal Injury Lawsuits

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Most personal injury cases are settled before trial. But whether your case settles or goes to trial, you will likely stand before the court at some point. When filing a personal injury lawsuit, most people focus on their medical treatment and monetary judgements. Lawyers are thinking about getting the evidence they need to prove their case. While those are both valid and worthwhile pursuits, there are other more technical considerations that can affect your lawsuit.

Courts are created and constrained by law. This means that not every court can hear every case. This is where jurisdiction and venue come in. These legal concepts control which court can hear your case. They can affect the outcome. In order to have a proper lawsuit (even for personal injury or wrongful death), the victim must have personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction and proper venue in order to sustain a defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Below, we will introduce you to the basics of jurisdiction and venue. These concepts can have a big effect on how your case is heard, decided and resolved. Both concepts relate to where you file a civil action. But they have different requirements and are measured differently by the law.

What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

A personal injury lawsuit is a civil action filed by an injured person against the person or entity responsible for their injuries. The person who has been injured and files the case is referred to as the “plaintiff,” and the people he or she sues are referred to as the “defendant(s).” The goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to recover damages, financial compensation & for the injuries caused by the negligence or recklessness of another.

Personal injury lawsuits are typically filed after an accident or injury has occurred, and can be filed against individuals, businesses, or government entities. If you have been injured in an accident, you may be wondering if you have a personal injury case. The best way to find out is to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney at Duque Law Group who can evaluate your case and advise you on your legal options.

What Is Jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction is the authority granted by law to the courts to rule on legal matters and render judgments, according to the subject matter of the case, and the geographical region in which the issue took place. Areas of jurisdiction apply to local, state, and federal laws, which mean that, for instance, a violation of federal law is tried in federal court.


Personal Jurisdiction

At its most basic level, personal jurisdiction means that a court has the power to hear a dispute involving a party, and to make a decision concerning that party’s rights. Courts that have personal jurisdiction have attained the power and authority to command a party into court. Unlike subject-matter, the court does not need jurisdiction over specific defendants in personal jurisdiction.

The first procedural requirement of personal jurisdiction is that a party must be served with a complaint and related papers (known as “service of process”) in the state where the court sits. If the defendant is not personally served with process, the court generally cannot exercise jurisdiction over that party and the case may not proceed. If a defendant cannot be located or is evading service of process, it is sometimes possible, with court approval, to serve a defendant by publication in a newspaper or other public forum.


Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Unlike personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction refers to whether the court in which you are trying to sue can hear the type of claim that you are bringing. While personal jurisdiction involves the location of the court, subject matter jurisdiction involves choosing between federal and state courts. Most lawsuits are filed in state courts, unless the case involves a question of federal law. Federal question jurisdiction can arise in patent infringement cases, civil rights cases, federal tax cases, and other areas that the federal government extensively regulates.

There are different state courts that hear different kinds of cases. For example, subject matter jurisdiction in the U.S. means that courts are divided up into sections, such as civil law, family law, and criminal law. A court in one of these divisions is said to have subject matter jurisdiction over cases that are relevant to its nature. However, every state has a superior court that has “general jurisdiction,” which is the ability to hear any case, regardless of its subject matter.


What Is Venue?

The legal term venue refers to the location where a trial will be heard, and is most commonly the most convenient court location to where the crime was committed, or where the civil legal action began. If an individual files a lawsuit at a location that is not the proper venue, the other party may object and request a change of venue. Venue is not the same thing as jurisdiction, which refers to the court’s authority to hear certain types of case.

The general rule for venue is a lawsuit can happen in one of two places.

Venue is proper against a defendant where they live or do business, no matter where the incident took place. More commonly, cases are brought against defendants in places where a substantial part of the events that gave rise to the lawsuit happened.

For example, if you live in California. The other motorist visits from Oregon. That motorist causes a car accident in California that injures you. In this case, the proper venue could be either the county in Oregon where the motorist lives or the county in California where the accident happened.

Venue is not as immovable as jurisdiction, though. If parties are extremely inconvenienced or there is another good reason, they can make a motion to the court for change of venue.


Where Should You File Your Lawsuit?

If you have suffered an injury and are considering suing the party at fault, you will need to decide where to file your lawsuit.

Here are some general considerations:


Initial Factors to Consider

There are a few initial questions you will want to ask when figuring out where to file your lawsuit, such as:

  • Where did the injury occur? Generally, you can file a lawsuit in the county where the injury happened.
  • Where does the defendant live? Under personal jurisdiction, you can often file suit in the county where any defendant lives at the time the lawsuit is filed.
  • Where do you live? For practical purposes, this will help your attorney figure out what option is most convenient for you, geographically and financially.

Those questions can help you get started on where you might want to file your lawsuit. But another major decision is whether you should file in state or federal court.



Should You Speak with an Attorney?

Our legal team at Duque Law Group is comprised of award-winning and nationally recognized trial lawyers who collaborate with nurses, doctors and medical experts regularly. Though we understand the nature of injuries, we are not physicians, and always encourage victims to seek treatment as soon after an accident as possible, and to follow up and heed their doctors’ advice.

Call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.


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