Any automobile accident can be serious, and the resulting personal injury lawsuit can be complicated without experienced legal help. When the accident occurs in a state where you do not live, there are certain things that you must know. Laws differ between the different states, so it is important to have legal counsel who can understand how the laws interact and which state's laws apply to your personal injury case.
If you are a resident of Washington and you were injured in the Portland, Oregon area, experienced personal injury attorney Quinn Posner of Quinn Posner Law Office, P.C. can fight for the financial compensation you deserve.
Jurisdiction in Personal Injury Cases
Understanding where to file a personal injury case depends on which state's courts properly have what is called "jurisdiction." Jurisdiction refers to the power of a court to hear and decide upon cases, issue orders, and properly exercise its judicial power.
Where jurisdiction is proper can be complicated, depending on the case. However, in most personal injury cases the proper jurisdiction is either:
- The county of the state in which the accident occurred; or
- The county of the state in which the defendant resides.
For example, if a Washington driver is injured by an impaired driver while driving through downtown Portland, a personal injury case could be filed in an Oregon state court or in the county in which the defendant lives.
Venue, for these purposes, concerns which specific court within a state is the proper place to bring the lawsuit. While state courts have jurisdiction over certain types of legal matters, the proper county court in which to file is decided by the rules of venue.
The correct venue in which to file your personal injury case is the county in which the accident occurred or where the defendant lives. If an accident occurred in Portland, Oregon, the proper Oregon court in which to file the personal injury claim would be the Multnomah County Circuit Court. Otherwise, the case could be filed where the defendant resides.
However, you never have to worry about which court is the right one. That is the job of your experienced personal injury attorney, who will ensure that your case is filed in the correct court.
Why Does Jurisdiction Matter?
There are a number of reasons why jurisdiction matters with regard to your personal injury case.
If the case is filed in the wrong jurisdiction, a motion for dismissal may be filed by the defendant. Dismissal motions take time and money to consider and decide. Ultimately, if the case is filed in the wrong jurisdiction, it will be dismissed.
The easy way to deal with this is to file it correctly in the first place. With the help of experienced personal injury Quinn Posner, you can be confident that your case will be filed correctly from the very beginning.
Application of State Law
If the accident that caused your injuries occurred in Oregon, Oregon state law will apply. The laws of Washington and Oregon are different, and it is crucial to appropriately apply the correct law to your case. The differences between the two state's laws can be important in determining how the case will proceed, and how it will be decided.
Oregon law tends to better favor insurance companies than does Washington's more victim preferred laws. For example, Oregon's Personal Injury Protection and Uninsured or Under-Insured Motorist laws do not grant the same levels of protection to drivers as do the laws of the State of Washington.
Insurance companies often seek to take advantage of this fact when the accident occurred in Oregon. However, when the insurance contract was signed in Washington, your contract with your insurance company must be followed, and application of Washington's laws as against the insurance company can better protect your rights.
Federal Court Jurisdiction
When you are injured in Portland, there is the possibility that your personal injury case could be filed in federal court rather than an Oregon state court. Federal courts have very specific jurisdictional limits, and certain factors must be strictly met in order to be allowed into federal court.
In a personal injury action, a case would be permitted under the theory of "diversity jurisdiction." Under diversity jurisdiction, a federal court can hear a case when
- the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, and
- no plaintiff shares a state of citizenship with any defendant.
The "amount in controversy" is an estimate of what you think your total damages would be if you succeed in full on your claim. Severe injuries can often result in damages which far exceed $75,000, especially if you have suffered a permanent disability as a result of your accident. Your attorney can help you estimate your possible damages to consider whether federal court is appropriate in your case.
No Shared Citizenship
This rule is the reason it is called "diversity" jurisdiction. No plaintiff is allowed to reside in the same state as any defendant.
Example: Claire is a Vancouver, Washington resident. She is driving in Portland, Oregon when Jonathan rear-ends her severely, causing her whiplash, broken bones, and partial paralysis. Jonathan lives in Portland and is an Oregon resident. Because Claire and Jonathan live in different states, if she sues him and her damages could likely exceed $75,000, she could sue him in federal court.
This can be more complicated when there are multiple defendants and if one of those defendants is a business (such as an insurance company). All plaintiffs must be different than all defendants. In the case of businesses, their "residence" is the company in which they are legally formed and their principal place of business.
Consult a Washington Personal Injury Attorney
If you are a Washington resident and were injured while in Portland, you need an experienced attorney who understands the personal injury process and how to effectively prove that another person caused you harm. You do not have to face this process alone.
Experienced personal injury attorney Quinn Posner represents clients in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, and the rest of Clark County. He is licensed to practice law in Oregon and can represent your case in Oregon or Federal courts. Contact Quinn Posner today to schedule a free consultation.