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.
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 Braukmann Law to determine where you should seek compensation
for your injuries that deeply affect your life both in the short-term