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Personal Injury Case Against Resident of Another State: Must Lawyers File in Federal Court?



There are many cases in which individuals are injured out-of-state or sustain injuries caused by a resident of another state or a legal entity such as a business in another state. In these situations, it depends on the facts and circumstances whether their claims can be filed in federal court.

Jurisdictional Issues in Injury Cases

If you are driving in another state and are involved in an auto accident, it does not mean that your injury claim must be filed in federal court. Before a case can even be filed in federal court, there are jurisdictional issues and the value of the case in controversy must be a certain amount. Some of the considerations that an attorney would factor in deciding which court to file include:

  • Both parties must be residents of different states.
  • The amount in controversy must be exceed $75,000.
  • Are the federal rules of evidence more advantageous to one party?

The U.S. Constitution allows the parties in these injury cases to decide in which court to file as a matter of convenience. If an injured party is suing in state court, but the defendant is a corporation with headquarters in a different state, the defendant has the right to move the case to federal court so long as the jurisdictional requirements of diversity and the amount in controversy are met.

When Does Federal Law Apply?

There are cases in which an injury lawyer must file in federal court. These include the following types of cases:

  • Airline accidents
  • Injuries on federal property
  • Claims made against the U.S. government or agency
  • Cruise ship injuries
  • Railroad accidents

Maritime injury cases are brought under the Jones Act, which are injury claims made by seamen. These may be filed in either state or federal court. Venue, or where the claim must be brought, may be determined by the employment contract, where the injury occurred, or where the seaman initially received treatment.

Statute of Limitations

Injured claimants need to be aware of the different statutes of limitations that may apply depending on the court where their claim is filed. For example, Minnesota has a six-year statute of limitations for filing personal injury cases. Federal courts have rules requiring written notice within as little as 60 days following an accident. If a claim is brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), the time limit is two years from the date the claim accrued. There are exceptions that can toll, or delay, the statutory period for filing a lawsuit that your personal injury attorney can explain to you given the circumstances of your matter and your status.