By way of background, I am a medical malpractice, wrongful death, catastrophic personal injury, and nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer. As such, I am frequently asked by potential clients about where a lawsuit will be filed when they or a loved one sustains death or personal injury from the negligent acts of another individual or corporation. The answer: it depends.
Generally, when someone sustains serious personal injuries or wrongful death as a result of another’s negligence, they will seek compensation for harms and losses caused by the fatality or injuries in the county court where the accident occurred. However, other options may apply. For example, in Ohio, where I practice personal injury law, a lawsuit can be filed in the county where the accident occurred or in any county in which the defendant resides. This occasionally creates a choice of venue. We recommend filing suit in the counties that have more sophisticated, urban populations. In our experience, rural venues are less likely to return a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and, when they do, the dollar amount of the verdict is usually less than in a more populous area.
In some cases, where damages are minimal, the lawsuit can be filed in a municipal court. Municipal court has the advantage of relaxed rules and, usually, a cheaper filing fee. This might be an appropriate venue for a smaller personal injury claim.
In some instances, your medical malpractice, wrongful death, personal injury, or nursing home negligence case must be filed in Federal Court. We typically avoid federal court because it has the most formal rules and cases usually have a more extended case schedule which delays resolution, and the pool of jurors is typically more conservative since they are partially drawn from rural counties. In addition, in Ohio’s County courts, the trial lawyer needs only to convince 6 of 8 jurors, whereas, in federal court, a unanimous verdict of 12 jurors is required.
Federal Court may be required if certain federal questions are at issue, for example, if the claim arises pursuant to a federal statute like the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) or where the defendant is an agency of the Federal Government, like medical malpractice claims against the VA. Federal court jurisdiction can also be invoked when the plaintiff and defendant reside in different states.
When a lawsuit is filed against an agency of the federal government, the claim must be initiated by filing a standard form 95. This gives the US Attorney and the Department of Justice the opportunity to settle the claim without formal litigation. Failure to exhaust this administrative remedy will result in dismissal of the claim.
Finally, some claims have to be filed in the United States Court of Federal Claims, such as claims arising out of a vaccine-related injury.
Generally, the choice of court is an easy one for a lawyer to make. An experienced trial lawyer who handles medical malpractice, severe personal injury, and nursing home abuse and neglect cases will know which venue is best suited for your lawsuit.