Personal Injury Cases in Federal Courts

By Hank Stout

We have represented clients in both state and federal court. It can often be difficult to distinguish which court to file your claim in, so below I’ve shared a few considerations to keep in mind when filing your personal injury case.

Many people wonder why some personal injury claims are filed in state court while others are filed in federal court. The answer is simple. The law in Texas has certain requirements for a lawsuit to be filed in federal court. If a personal injury case does not meet those requirements, then the case must be filed in state court. Even if a personal injury case meets the requirements to be filed in federal court, it can still be filed in state court.

When Will a Personal Injury Case be Filed in Federal Court?

There are two scenarios in which a personal injury case can be filed in federal court.

The first is called diversity of citizenship. In order to satisfy this requirement, one must satisfy a citizenship component and an amount in controversy component. As for the former, federal courts have jurisdiction in cases between: (1) citizens of different States; (2) citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state; (3) citizens of different States and in which citizens or subjects of a foreign state are additional parties; and (4) a foreign state as plaintiff and citizens of a State or of different States. With respect to the latter, the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000.00, exclusive of interests and costs.

What does this mean?

It means that if, for example, a citizen of Texas is injured in a car wreck caused by a citizen of Mississippi and his damages exceed $75,000, his case can be brought in federal court.

The second scenario in which a personal injury case can be filed in federal court is called federal question. This means that the personal injury case involves a matter of federal law.

Some examples of personal injury cases involving a federal question are when a worker is injured offshore (Jones Act claims) or when a worker is injured while working for a railroad company (FELA claim).

Just because a case can be brought in federal court does not mean that it should. You need to consult with your personal injury lawyer about whether to file in state court or federal court before filing. Often times, there are many strategy calls that need to be made about where to file a lawsuit.

Hank Stout
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