Washington D.C. is one of the most visited cities in the country, with almost 20 million people coming to the D.C. Metro area every year. For tourists, it may be the countless monuments, museums, and historical sights that the area is famous for. For business travellers, Washington D.C. is the seat of the federal government, as well as host to numerous conventions. However, something most visitors never think about is what would happen if they are involved in some accident while visiting D.C.
Where Did the Injury Occur?
As an example, consider what would happen if you are driving a rental car near the mall, when from out of nowhere, you are rear-ended. Maybe everyone had a slight shock, but after getting out to evaluate the damage, it does not look too bad. Insurance information is exchanged, the rental car company is contacted, and everything seems fine. However, days later when you get home, you notice a stiff neck and a headache that just won't go away. Perhaps your passenger is now complaining of a sore back, or numbness and tingling that wasn't there before. What do you do now?
Navigating the court process is difficult enough. Complicating the process by trying to deal with a personal injury lawsuit in another part of the country only makes it worse. You may be unsure whether to contact an attorney in your hometown, or look on the internet for a personal injury lawyer who specializes in personal injury claims in the D.C. metro area.
If you have been injured, the question of where you can file a lawsuit has to do with “jurisdiction.” Jurisdiction relates to the government's power to exercise authority over the people within the territory. When it comes to filing a personal injury lawsuit, it is important to make sure you are filing it within the proper jurisdiction, otherwise, the court may have no jurisdiction over the other person involved.
For example, if you are a resident of New York, and were involved in a car accident in Washington D.C., a court in New York may not have jurisdiction over the other person involved. Similarly, if you were involved in an accident in Washington D.C. with another person from Florida, they may not be able to sue you in a Florida court. In most cases, the appropriate court will be the jurisdiction where the injury occurred. In the case of the car crash above, filing the claim in the Superior Court of Washington D.C. may be the right place to have your lawsuit heard.
However, jurisdiction is not just a question of where the courthouse is located. Different states have different laws that can impact your case. Some states limit the amount of monetary damages someone can recover in a personal injury lawsuit. Before deciding to file your lawsuit in the jurisdiction that is most convenient, make sure it is the jurisdiction that will allow you to fully recover for your injuries.
If You Are Suing a D.C. Resident For an Accident in Washington D.C.
If the accident or incident involved a D.C. resident, then a District of Columbia civil court will likely be the right place to file a lawsuit, because it has personal jurisdiction over the citizens who reside there.
If You Are Suing a Non-D.C. Resident For an Accident in Washington D.C.
If the accident or incident did not involve a D.C. resident, then a District of Columbia civil court may still be the right place to file a lawsuit, if the accident or injury occurred in Washington D.C. So long as the defendant has sufficient contacts with Washington D.C., the court may have jurisdiction over the defendant in a civil lawsuit.
In the example above, if you were involved in a car accident in Washington D.C., it may not matter where you or the other driver reside. At the time of the accident, if both people were in Washington D.C., that may be enough to establish jurisdiction over the case and the defendants involved. It would seem fair that by driving through Washington D.C. that individuals would consent to be held to the laws of the state, and the authority of the local courts.
These were simplified examples of jurisdictional questions. In reality, it can be much more complicated. For example, when a California resident buys a phone made in China from a salesperson at a phone kiosk in the Washington D.C. airport, and they are injured by an exploding battery while on a flight to Cancun, where is the proper place to file the lawsuit?
The issue of jurisdiction can get complicated very quickly, especially when there are multiple defendants involved. If you are not a resident of Washington D.C. and were injured within D.C., or by a D.C. resident, you should contact an attorney experienced in Metro D.C. personal injury claims, to make sure you are fully compensated for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
Contacting a D.C. Personal Injury Attorney
You should not have to struggle with the complex issues of jurisdiction or venue if you were injured in an accident. Contact a the law firm of Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation. We will make sure you are filing your case in the right place to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.