Choosing The Right Court For Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury law concerns itself with compensation for injuries due to another's negligence. One of the first decisions made in seeking fair damages in your civil case is to select the appropriate court, so one must understand jurisdiction, or a court's authority to make legal decisions and judgments. Generally, you will file in the district where the injury occurred.

But, as demonstrated by a recent case in West Virginia, where a DISH TV installer's latter fell on and injured a homeowner during the installation of a satellite dish, parties can disagree over the jurisdiction. For example, DISH TV claims the suit should be held in federal court because the parties are from different states and because the damage amount sought exceeds $75,000. Although legal counsel resolves many personal injury claims outside of court, your case needs expert guidance toward the appropriate jurisdiction if you must go to trial.

Courts for Personal Injury Cases in Montana

Like other states, Montana has a tiered court system: Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, District Courts, and Montana's Supreme Court. Montana characterizes Justice Courts, City Courts, and Municipal Courts as Courts of Limited Jurisdiction. Collectively, these 151 courts address civil cases for damage amounts up to $12,000.

District Courts, called courts of general jurisdiction, are divided into 22 separate districts, covering several counties each. These courts address most civil cases involving personal injury and may hear cases without a limit to damage amounts.

Montana's Supreme Court oversees the entire court system and hears appellate or original cases. In other words, it receives cases already decided by lower courts, and it hears cases for the first time, although these cases are limited in scope. Personal injury cases may end up in the Supreme Court.

Federal Court

A complaint may be filed in federal court based on the “diversity of citizenship” of the parties. For example: between parties from different states or between US citizens and those of another country. Diversity jurisdiction only involves sought damages exceeding $75,000. Claims below that amount may only be pursued in state court. Importantly, plaintiffs may bring any diversity jurisdiction case, regardless of the amount of money involved, to a state court rather than federal court.

How to Decide

Most Montanans' experience is with the Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, but cases can get complicated, such as when individuals causing your injuries live in-state but work for employers out-of-state. There are many other complicating factors to consider, too. Contact us here at Odegaard Miller Law to determine where you should seek compensation for your injuries that deeply affect your life both in the short-term and long-term.