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How to choose the right court to file a personal injury lawsuit related to a car accident?

Law Offices of Yu & Associates

The statute of limitations for an accidental injury tort case in Maryland is three years, which means that the law gives you the right to sue the party for damages within three years from the date of your injury. The goal of all personal injury attorneys is to maximize compensation for their clients, so there are many factors to consider when deciding which court to file a lawsuit with, including the threshold of the subject matter of the case, the length of the trial, the cost of filing a lawsuit and the expected judgment outcomes of different courts. Generally speaking, the plaintiff in a personal injury case related to a car accident can go to the court where the accident occurred or where the defendant is located. So which court should you choose to sue the other party?

The first question to be considered is the jurisdiction. In Maryland, a plaintiff can bring a personal injury case in a state district court when the damages sought by the plaintiff are less than $30,000. The District Court of Maryland has 33 state district courts, covering every county in the state. But cases over $30,000 cannot be litigated in state district court.

The second question is the issue of processing time. Cases heard in the District Court of Maryland proceed much faster than in state circuit courts. Usually, the district court will review and close a case within two to six months after the case is accepted. Of course, the processing time at the district court varies from county to county. Meanwhile, a lawsuit in the circuit courts of Maryland generally takes about a year.

The third question is the issue of the jury. There is no jury for cases heard at the district courts; the judge will make a decision on the case based on the plaintiff's statement with the medical reports and other evidence submitted as well as the defendant's defense. Judges are professionals who have received legal training, so lawyers do not need to explain the applicable law to the judge. The judges will give their findings and analysis of the factual investigation immediately after the trial, and then make a judgment in accordance with the law, which is relatively simple. However, a case before the circuit court must go through the process of selecting jury members and instructing the jury to apply the law, and finally allow the jury to make the decision on the case. The whole case process at the circuit court is more complex, and that is why circuit court cases are slower.

The fourth issue is the cost of discovery, the process of obtaining the evidence and investigating the facts of a case. Evidence collection methods at the district courts are relatively limited. At district courts, it is not possible to conduct oral depositions with the other party before the trial, and also the other party cannot use its own doctors and experts to conduct an independent investigation of the plaintiff's medical report. Both parties can only ask the other party to answer some questions in writing. The cost of discovery is therefore far lower than in circuit courts. In the circuit court, oral evidence collection can be used to question the other party and the other party's witnesses, in order to attack the credibility of the other party's testimony during the trial if it conflicts with previous evidence. The injured party will also need to use a doctor's expert report or an expert to testify in person that their medical bills and treatment are fair and reasonable, and the plaintiff's injuries are directly related to the car accident. As a result, the cost of preparing witness materials may be significantly higher for circuit court cases. Depending on the complexity of the case and the number of witnesses, the costs could run thousands of dollars for circuit court proceedings. Meanwhile, district courts do not involve as much evidence, so the costs are not so high.

Therefore, when choosing in which state court to file a personal injury lawsuit, it is necessary to analyze and determine the choice of the court based on the above aspects. Moreover, for some cases where the amount of compensation sought is larger, it is necessary to further consider whether to file the suit in the federal district court or the state circuit court.

The conditions for filing in federal district court are: 1) The amount in dispute must exceed $75,000. That is, the plaintiff estimates that the court will award more than $75,000 in damages. If the amount in dispute is between $30,000 and $75,000, the case remains within the jurisdiction of the Maryland courts. 2) The plaintiff and the defendant must be from different states and must comply with the principle of diversity of citizenship. If both the plaintiff and the defendant are residents of Maryland, the case can only go to a district or circuit court in Maryland, not federal court.

To sum up, it is very important to choose a suitable court to file your suit, which requires an experienced lawyer to help you analyze these complex situations to make an appropriate plan for you. Generally speaking, courts in wealthy areas will award higher damages than less wealthy ones. The amount of damages awarded in federal courts is generally higher than in state courts. However, each case will have its own unique nuances, and decisions need to be carefully analyzed and made based on the details of the case.

The above is a general introduction, and should not be construed as individual legal advice. For specific legal questions, please contact the Law Offices of Yu & Associates. Tel: 301-838-8986, Fax: 202-595-1918; E-mail:, Address: 110 N. Washington St., Suite 328E, Rockville, MD 20850. (All rights reserved.)

Ó Yu & Associates LLC, 110 North Washington Street, Suite 328E, Rockville, MD 20850, USA. Tel: 301-838-8986