Liability and Vacation: Where to File Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
Everyone needs a vacation. A time to relax. To get away from the daily routine. You may plan on lounging on the beach, or making every minute count by engaging in physical activity, running, jogging, climbing, etc. Maybe you will be snow skiing, boating or zip-lining. Visiting museums or National Parks.
Unfortunately, there are many times when the fun is interrupted because you or a family member is involved in an accident and gets injured. Vacation accidents are not uncommon. You are likely traveling more miles than usual. You may be driving in different types of traffic situations than you are used to. You may be trying a new activity or cramming as much sight-seeing into one day as possible, hustling and bustling around. These situations easily increase the risk of being involved in an accident.
The bottom line is that accidents don’t take a break just because you are on vacation or are away from your hometown or state. Even though you are not a local resident or a resident of the state where the accident occurred, the negligent person or entity at fault for your accident is still liable for your damages. The only issue is that your claim and potential lawsuit will be made in the state where the accident occurred. This might be somewhat inconvenient. However, this minor inconvenience is worth it when you consider your mounting medical bills, your continued lost wages and the value of your pain and suffering.
What Court has Jurisdiction Over Your Accident?
Jurisdiction means the authority for a particular court to hear your case. Whomever you intend to sue, whether it be a person, business or any combination thereof, the court must have jurisdiction over the defendant or defendants. You may have some options.
Suing in the State Where the Accident Occurred
In Georgia, if the accident occurred in Georgia, you must file your lawsuit in the State of Georgia. Even if neither you nor the defendant(s) are residents of the state, if the accident occurred in Georgia, jurisdiction is maintained by Georgia.
What County Is The Proper Venue For Your Lawsuit?
Venue means the county in which your lawsuit will be filed. This is determined by the defendant’s residence, if he or she is a person, or the location of the defendant’s registered agent, if the defendant is a corporation. If you sue more than one defendant and the defendants reside or are incorporated in different counties, your personal injury attorney will pick the county that is friendlier to plaintiffs and your particular lawsuit.
Filing a Lawsuit in Federal Court in Your Home State
While we do not suggest filing a lawsuit in federal court due to the strict timelines and procedural rules, there are three (3) federal districts in the State of Georgia: Northern, Middle and Southern. The federal court districts in Georgia may have jurisdiction over your lawsuit if:
- You and one of the defendants have “diverse citizenship,” which means you reside or are incorporated in two different states; and
- The amount in controversy is at least $75,000.
For example, let’s presume that you are a citizen of Florida, but had an accident in Atlanta, Georgia. The driver of the tractor trailer that hit you, resides in Nashville, Tennessee. Additionally, the trucking company is incorporated in Chicago, Illinois. Further, your medical bills exceed $75,000.00. In this instance, you would have the option of filing your lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia.
Even though a federal court has jurisdiction over your case, you may still prefer – and we would suggest – that you file your lawsuit in the county best suited for your particular situation. In either case, whether in Magistrate Court, State Court, Superior Court or Federal Court the laws of the State of Georgia would apply to your lawsuit.
If you were injured while visiting Georgia, the experienced accident attorneys at Georgia Trial Attorneys can help. If possible, contact us before leaving the state and returning to your home state. If this is not possible, just contact us as soon as you can. If you are a Georgia resident who was injured while out of the state, we may be able to help you, too. Contact us as soon as possible. We will explore all of your options and determine the proper county and court to ensure jurisdiction and venue are proper.