One of the first major decisions that a Washington, D.C. personal injury victim must come to is where to file their case. A court can only hear a lawsuit if it has jurisdiction to do so. There are two types of jurisdiction, personal and subject-matter. Subject-matter jurisdiction refers to the court’s ability to hear the specific kind of claim being brought by the plaintiff. Personal jurisdiction refers to whether a court has the power to issue a binding declaration against a party.
Establishing jurisdiction over a plaintiff is generally easy, because the plaintiff consents to jurisdiction by filing a claim with the court. However, determining which courts have jurisdiction over a defendant can be tricky. In Washington, D.C., the general rule is that a court has jurisdiction over a party if the party resides or does business in that state. Thus, if a Washington, D.C. resident causes an accident in Delaware that injures a Maryland plaintiff, the plaintiff could file the claim in Washington, D.C. because that is where the defendant resides.
Other Ways to Establish a Court’s Jurisdiction
Often, filing a claim where the defendant resides is not preferable for a plaintiff. It may be that the law in the state where the defendant lives is unfavorable to the plaintiff’s claim or that the plaintiff wants to litigate the case close to their home. In any event, a plaintiff may be able to file a lawsuit in another state if they can establish that the state has jurisdiction.