Our trial attorneys at Morrow & Sheppard LLP are often asked: “how do I file a personal injury case?” This article will discuss some of the basics.
Step 1: Consult With a Personal Injury Attorney
The first thing an injured person or their family should do is contact an attorney who handles personal injury cases.
This may seem like obvious advice. But the simple truth is that, for a variety of reasons, many people wait too long to talk to a lawyer.
Sometimes people wait because they are consumed with dealing with the fallout from their injuries. No longer being able to do the things you used to with loved ones, dealing with hospitals and medical treatment, and lost time from work can all consume a great deal of time.
In other cases, people are concerned that they cannot afford a lawyer. Those folks may not realize that, at Morrow & Sheppard LLP, we provide 100% free and confidential consultations, and if you do hire us, we only get paid if you win.
Other folks do not realize that there are legal deadlines to file claims.
All of these are understandable reasons why people wait to call a personal injury lawyer. But you need to know that waiting too long can seriously impair your case. Witnesses or defendants may disappear or run out of money. And those that do have deep pockets will work quickly to secure all possible evidence in their favor following your injury.
It’s important that you contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.
Step 2: Select the Court
Once you’ve retained a personal injury lawyer, he or she will need to figure out where to file your case.
State courts and federal courts are the two most common places people file personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.
State Court Options. In Texas, most state court personal injury lawsuits are filed in state district court or state county court. County courts typically have jurisdiction over personal injury cases where the value is between $500 and $200,000, excluding mandatory damages and penalties, attorney fees, interest, and court costs.
District Courts also have jurisdiction over cases involving more than $500, and unlike county courts, there is no maximum amount of damages that can be claimed. Larger Texas state court personal injury cases are typically filed in district court.
But if your case is worth $200,000 or less, there may be good reason to file in county court. For example, in Houston, Harris County, Texas, personal injury cases filed in county court typically are set for trial sooner than those filed in district court, which means you may have to wait less time for a settlement or trial judgment.
State vs. Federal Court. Your case may need to be filed in federal court. When do cases have to be filed in federal court? That’s a difficult question that would require thousands of pages to answer. But generally speaking, federal courts have jurisdiction over cases in which there is a “federal question,” diversity of citizenship, or where a specific law has been passed requiring that kind of case to be filed in federal court.
Diversity of citizenship is when there is more than $75,000 at stake, no defendant is from the place where the lawsuit is filed, and no plaintiff is from the same place as any defendant. Federal question means the case involves interpretation of a federal law, the United States Constitution, or a federal treaty.
Which State? Finally, depending on the circumstances, you may have the option of filing your personal injury lawsuit in several different states. For example, you can typically file your lawsuit where the injury occurred, or where one of the defendants has its home base.
Step 3: File the Personal Injury Lawsuit
The final step is actually filing the lawsuit. Unless there’s something unusual about your case, the personal injury lawyer you hire should do this for you.
These days, most lawsuits are filed online. For example, Harris County, Houston, Texas has specific rules that govern e-filing.
An Attorney at Morrow Sheppard LLP Can Provide Further Advice
These are some of the basics. But to really understand the process, you need to speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Morrow & Sheppard LLP handles serious personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits around the country. If you or a loved one has been injured, or if a loved one has died, call us now at (713) 489-1206 for a free consultation to discuss your options.