It's a simple enough question. Shouldn't it have a simple answer? You may not believe but, there is actually some flexibility when it comes to deciding where your personal injury trial will be. This is because every case is different, and your specific case has factors that make it individual to you.
This can be especially important if you have recently relocated or if the accident was in another state. A trial is a long and exhausting process. You will need to be able to travel to the county in which it will take place.
Your attorney likely has a few options on where to file a lawsuit. The options you have will vary from case to case. Texas rules say that one option you have to file suit is to do so in the county where the defendant or a defendant lives or is located. The defendant is the person who caused the accident, whether it’s the other driver, the policyholder, or the business who owned the vehicle. You can also file in the county where the event took place. Say you live in Hays County; the defendant lives in Travis County and the wreck took place in Williamson County. Your attorney would be able to choose between Travis County, where the defendant lives, and Williamson County, where the accident took place.
Other than the technicality of where the trial can be filed, your attorney will likely also consider where you will want to file. Certain counties are considered more “Plaintiff friendly” than others. As the person who was injured and filing the lawsuit, you are the plaintiff. Therefore, it would be better for you and your case if your attorney chooses a county that trends toward plaintiff-friendly verdicts. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. For instance, if the accident took place in the same county that the defendant lived in, then you don't have an option of where to file suit.
If you aren’t able to file in a “Plaintiff friendly” venue, don’t worry! Your case will still be heard, and you may still get a good outcome. Attorneys have been known to get wonderful settlements outside of plaintiff-friendly venues, and attorneys have been known to get bad settlements in plaintiff-friendly courts. The venue is certainly a factor in predicting a potential outcome, but it is just one factor.
So, what does it mean for a venue to be plaintiff-friendly? Car accident attorneys will typically watch the trends of verdicts award in local counties. Sometimes juries will trend towards good verdicts for personal injuries and sometimes juries will tend to be more difficult on plaintiffs. A plaintiff-friendly venue means that juries in that area typically tend to award more for car accidents or slip and fall cases than other venues. Of course, this is not an exact science since every case is different and has a set of intangibles that cannot be quantified.
Once the county is determined, your attorney will need to decide what court to file in. This depends on the amount of damages you are pleading and any other possible factors of your case. Your damages include medical bills, future medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. The type of court you file in will determine how many jurors will hear your case. You will likely either have 6 or 12 jurors.
It’s important to note that the value of your case does not equal the value of your life or what you’ve been through. It will feel personal to hear that the “value of your case” as a certain number when you feel that your experiences could never be equated like that. In Texas, your medical bills can only be considered by the “paid and incurred” number. This means that your attorney will likely have an idea of what venue and court your lawsuit should be filed in. If you have concerns or questions, you should be sure to ask them.
When you think about the possibility of filing a lawsuit, you should be prepared that you may need to travel for the trial dates. Discuss the possibility with your attorney and voice any concerns you have. It’s crucial that you are able to be at the trial for every day that it’s going on. If you are out of state, filing a lawsuit is a big commitment and should be viewed as such. You will be expected to travel back for depositions, mediation, and ultimately, the entire trial.
If you are facing a personal injury trial, don't go it alone. Contact our personal injury attorneys at McKinney Vos. Based in Austin, Texas and serving clients throughout Central Texas, we're open 24/7 and offer free consultations to discuss the merits of your case.