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What is the difference between federal and state court for my personal injury action?


Federal Courts only have jurisdiction over personal injury claims when “diversity” between the parties exists. Diversity is all about what state each party resides in. Diversity jurisdiction exists where all defendants are from different states than all plaintiffs and the amount in controversy exceeds $75K. If a party on opposite side is from the same state, diversity is destroyed. However, persons on the same side may be from the same state.   If no diversity exists, then the case belongs in State Court.

When filing a claim where diversity exists, state court is still a viable place for the injured person to choose, and most often they do. It then becomes the Defendants’ right (if they all agree) to transfer it to Federal Court. Deciding where to file is not always an easy task.

Advantages to federal court:


  • Process is more streamlined, usually moves faster than state court.
  • Electronic filing in all Federal Courts but only in some state courts – this saves on expenses.
  • You get pre-disclosure of information up front before the lawsuit really gets going so you know better what the issues are.
  • Federal courts tend to be less tolerant of delays from either side, and delay is not what plaintiffs want.
  • Settlement conferences almost always are offered and usually encourage settlement for smaller cases.

Disadvantages to Federal Court:


  • You have to get all 12 jurors to agree on verdict in Federal Court whereas in State Court you only need 9. This makes it tougher to get a verdict in Federal Court.
  • Deadlines are stricter and sometimes easy to miss, which in some case can end a case.
  • Most motions require supporting memoranda, which means a lot more work has to be done causing expenses to be higher.
  • Discovery is usually limited in terms of how many people can be deposed or how many questions can be asked, which makes it tougher to get the information you need sometimes.

Another difference between State and Federal Court is that Federal Judges are appointed by the President of the United States while State Court Judges are elected by the people of their local district. This does not necessarily mean one side or another would prefer a particular Court, but for the most part, Defendants tend to prefer Federal Court while Plaintiffs tend to prefer State Court when all the factors above are considered.

If you have a question about your civil case and which Court system it could or should be in, please give us a call for a free consultation at 601-948-8005.

Ashley Hendricks

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