Q. I got into a car accident in the county in which I reside. I was rear-ended while I was stopped at a red light. I spoke to a lawyer and he told me it was the other driver’s fault. The other driver was driving a truck but is a resident of another state. I am concerned that I will need to sue the driver in another state and litigate the matter there as opposed to here in my state. The lawyer I spoke with seems to think that we will be able to litigate the case in our state because of issues of jurisdiction and venue. Can you explain what venue and jurisdiction mean?
A. Sure. In personal injury law, the plaintiff, which is you, must file their personal injury case in the proper jurisdiction and within the appropriate venue. Let me explain what this means in the context of your case.
Personal Jurisdiction Over The Defendant
A plaintiff must establish personal jurisdiction over the defendant in order to legally compel the defendant to respond to your lawsuit in the state and county of your choice.
Personal injury lawsuits must be filed in the county where the injury or accident occurred and/or in the county where the accident occurred and/or where the defendant resides. The location of the court where the lawsuit is filed and the authority of the court to hear the case are referred to as personal jurisdiction.
In your case, the defendant is an out-of-state resident but was driving his truck in your state and county when the accident occurred. This is sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction over the defendant truck driver and your lawyer can legally compel the truck driver to litigate the case in your state and within your county.
Establishing Proper Venue Over The Defendant
The term venue refers to a proper place in which to file a lawsuit. Venue rules are developed by state courts to protect the defendant from having a case filed in an inconvenient court such as in another state. More than one judicial district or county can be the proper venue for a lawsuit.
While you may have established personal jurisdiction over the defendant, the truck driver may claim that venue is not proper in this particular case. The purpose of venue in personal injury cases is to give the defendant some control in the choice of the forum in which the case will be litigated and tried.
The law provides that venue is proper where: the defendant resides or does business, or where the accident took place, or where other events leading up to the lawsuit took place.
Since the accident took place in your county and the truck driver by using the county roads was in effect doing business in your county when the accident occurred, venue would clearly be proper in your county.