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.
If a claim involves a car accident that was allegedly caused by the defendant, the state where the accident occurred will have jurisdiction over the defendant. Perhaps the next most straightforward way to establish jurisdiction is through the consent of the defendant. However, in reality, defendants rarely consent to be sued in a foreign state.
Another way to establish jurisdiction without a defendant’s consent is to serve the defendant while they are in the state. Even if a defendant is only briefly in a state, if the defendant is served while in that state it will establish jurisdiction.
Finally, a plaintiff can file a case against a defendant in a state in which the defendant has sufficient “minimum contacts.” When determining whether a defendant had minimum contacts within a state, courts essentially ask whether it is fair for the state to exercise power over the defendant. For example, if a company is headquartered in State A, but maintains a retail store in State B, a court may find that the defendant has minimum contacts in State B due to the business they conduct in the state.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Washington, D.C. accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. At the Washington, D.C. personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we have decades of experience representing injury victims in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., and know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalves. To learn more about how we can help you recover for the injuries you have sustained, call 410-654-3600 today.
More Blog Posts:
Pursuing a Personal Injury Claim against a Negligent Washington, D.C. Employer, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 5, 2019
Assumption of the Risk in Washington, D.C. Sports Injury Cases, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 19, 2019