Why is My Personal Injury Case in Federal Court?

Essentially, there are two places where a personal injury case can be brought: State Court and Federal Court. The difference between the two jurisdictions is exactly what it sounds like. State Courts are the courts governed by the rules and laws of the state they are located, while Federal Court is run by the rules and laws set by the Federal government. The overwhelming majority of personal injury cases take place in State Court, however sometimes a case may be in Federal Court.

Essentially, your personal injury case can be heard in Federal Court in one of three scenarios. The first is if the United States is a defendant. The second is if your personal injury case arises out of a federal law. The last scenario is when the case involves citizens of different states and if the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00.

The third scenario is the one I receive the most questions about, but it is easy to understand after explanation. The case needs to involve people from different states, for example California and New York. And the amount you are requesting for your personal injuries is more than $75,000.00. The most common type of case that I see in Federal Court involves large trucking companies. Large trucking companies operate throughout the country but their “home base” can only be one state. Given that they are large vehicles they can create a lot of damage so it is not difficult to imagine injuries where medical bills exceed $75,000.00.

A common follow up question I get is what does this mean for my case? Substantively nothing. You still need to prove your case as you would in any other personal injury matter. Procedurally, there are differences. You would not follow your State’s procedural laws, but instead would follow the laws set by the Federal Government. This can change things like filing deadlines, the amount of time you have to sit for a deposition, the number of jurors that hear your case and other similar issues. The difference between State and Federal Court likely will not affect the injured party much, but the lawyer helping you will have to understand the differences. If you ever have questions about the differences do not hesitate to ask your attorney.