When you file a personal injury lawsuit, the venue for your trial matters. It can make the difference in whether you are able to recover for your injury and the amount of your financial compensation. You want to choose the right venue for your case, even though there are rules that govern where you can file your lawsuit. Within those laws, you want to increase the chances that you will end up in front of a sympathetic jury that will award you the financial compensation that you deserve.
When you have been injured in an accident, you will need to be compensated for the damages that you have suffered from your serious injury. This includes lost wages, costs of medical treatment and physical therapy and pain and suffering. You would need an adequate jury award to cover all of these.
Venue Rule in Illinois
First, let us recap the law in Illinois for you regarding venue in lawsuits for a personal injury case. As a plaintiff, you do not get an unlimited ability to sue anywhere that you want in the state. 735 ILCS 5-2 – 101 sets forth the venue in a court case. According to Illinois law, you can generally file a lawsuit in one of three places in the state:
- The county where you reside
- The county in which the defendant and possible fault party resides. If there are multiple defendants, you can pick a county in which any one of them lives.
- The county where the accident occurred.
State vs. Federal Court for Your Lawsuit
Of course, this all assumes that both of the defendants are from Illinois. If one of the defendants is not an Illinois resident, they have the right to remove the lawsuit to federal court under 28 USC §1441.
Defendants usually do not want to be in state court for their lawsuit. They ordinarily prefer federal court because there is less of a chance of being hit with a large jury verdict.
Plaintiff-Friendly Venues in Illinois
Within Illinois, there are some jurisdictions that have reputations as being more plaintiff-friendly than others. For example, Cook County has a reputation as being a favorable jurisdiction for plaintiffs in a personal injury case. While it does not mean that the plaintiff is guaranteed to win the lawsuit, it does mean that jury verdicts can be larger.
Beyond a venue’s reputation for being plaintiff-friendly, venue also matters in terms of damage awards. Things cost more in urban areas such as Cook County and DuPage County. Medical costs are higher as are salaries, and it could impact how a jury views the case when it comes to making the award.
Juries in different areas may also perceive a case differently based on their own experiences. Cook County juries may understand a lawsuit that involves a pedestrian injury given the number of people who cross streets in Chicago more so than a jury in the rural part of the state. Rural juries may not be as equipped to handle complex cases such as medical malpractice since they do not see as many of these lawsuits as juries in urban areas. In contrast, some venues may be more favorable places to bring lawsuits stemming from a car accident.
The Defendant May Try To Change Venue
Depending on where you file your personal injury lawsuit, the defendant may try to move the case elsewhere to a jurisdiction that they perceive to be more favorable to them. Defense attorneys may try to argue that your chosen jurisdiction is an inconvenient forum. As much as you want to be in a favorable venue, they are following the same story and do not want to be there. An insurance company knows Illinois juries very well themselves.
However, in Illinois, your choice of venue as a plaintiff will get some deference from the trial court. A judge will not lightly disturb the plaintiff’s choice of venue.
Procedurally, venue also matters in your personal injury case. If you have filed your case in a venue that does not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant, your case may be dismissed by the court. While you can refile in the proper venue, you may have lost the ability to sue in the meantime because of the statute of limitations. However, if your case gets transferred to another venue due to a ruling of the court, that will not affect the statute of limitations.
If you are wondering what this means for you, it means that you will need to work with your personal injury lawyer to find the best venue for your case in Illinois. After you decide whether to file in federal or state courts, you will then need to select the country for your lawsuit.
Your Attorney Will Work with You to Choose the Best Venue
Your attorney will have an idea of how conducive each venue in the state is for your personal injury claim. The lawyer will generally know where the best place to file the case is. First, they will evaluate all of the possible places where the complaint can be filed. Then, they will compare the pros and the cons of each venue.
Balanced against the type of jury you would find are convenience factors. Your attorney will also look at whether each particular venue would be convenient for your own trial. Even if the juries have a reputation of being plaintiff-friendly or are more experienced in your kind of lawsuit, it will not mean much if your witnesses will have trouble getting there and the location makes it difficult for you to put on all of your evidence.
Thus, the best venue for your personal injury case is one that is both convenient with juries that are possibly receptive to your claim. An experienced attorney will generally know the best place to file the claim.