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Does my Personal Injury Case Belong in Federal or State Court?

Wondering whether your lawsuit belongs in federal or state court? Of course your lawyers will know the answer to that. Still, it’s always best to go into a consultation equipped with the knowledge, to ask the right questions.


To hear a case a court has to have the authority to do so. Makes sense, right? Otherwise the ruling won’t count. That is what jurisdiction is. The court must have subject matter jurisdiction (power over the type of case), and personal jurisdiction (power over the parties to the case).
It’s almost always state court.

In most instances you will file in the court closest to you or close to where the incident took place.
Federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction in two categories of cases.

1. Federal question: cases that fall under a federal law/statute; and
2. Diverse citizenship: cases where the parties to the lawsuit are citizens of different states (foreign or domestic), plus there is at least $75,000 at issue in the lawsuit.

An example of a case that is based on a federal question is a lawsuit against the police department for excessive force which violates a federal civil rights statute. An example of diverse citizenship is when residents of different states get into a car accident and the plaintiff seeks over $75,000 in damages. The lawsuit can be heard in a federal court in either state where the citizens are from.

Determining citizenship.

To clarify, citizenship of a person or business may carry different meanings in this legal context. A person is a citizen of the state in which they maintain a primary residence, and can only be a citizen of one state at a time. Whereas, a corporation can be a citizen of two states at the same time. A corporation is a citizen of the state in which it is incorporated, as well as the state in which its primary place of business is located.
Do you ever get to choose between federal or state court?

There are a few instances where cases must stay in federal court, but on the most part, if you can file in federal, you can file in state. So you have an advantage of seeking the court that most suits you. This is called “forum shopping” and lawyers will consider several factors on where to file including:

– Geographic location of the courts;
– Statute of limitations;
– The presiding judges; and
– The jury pools.

For more on jurisdiction in personal injury cases, contact , Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez & Walsh where their team of experienced trial attorneys are ready to represent you at every stage of the litigation process. We get results that get you the justice you deserve. Schedule a free case review today at [email protected].

Stephen M. Fernandez developed a strong belief in justice and fairness in public policy while earning his Political Science degree prior to attending law school. Since joining the Florida Bar Association in 2004, Stephen Fernandez has combined his background in public policy, business administration and civil law to serve as a highly effective trial lawyer fighting for Florida's injured, working hard every day to make sure his clients get what they are owed.

Does my Personal Injury Case Belong in Federal or State Court?

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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