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What if my car accident occurred out of state ?

A lot of the people that we work with are confused as to how state lines affect their chances at recovery following a car accident.  They wonder if they can file a suit at all if their incident occurred in a different state, if the potential defendant is from a different state, or if there are other geographical considerations.  The answer generally is that neither of these things should stop you provided you establish a set of items that prove venue.  What is venue?  How does this differ from jurisdiction?  We turn to that now.

VENUE: Where an auto accident case can be filed

Car Accident Occurring Out of StateNormally determined at the county level, venue is described as the area where a case will transpire because it is proper.  Typically, what is proper is normally associated with where it is convenient to have the case.  The factors for convenience vary but normally revolve around a common set of elements including the following:

  • Where the defendant resides?
  • Where the car accident occurred?
  • Where the parties consented to have the case?

JURISDICTION: What courts can hear the case?

Though this issue closely resembles that of venue, jurisdiction is actually a wholly distinct legal concept.  Jurisdiction relates to the places, peoples, and subject matters over which courts have power and are empowered to give decisions.The idea of courts’ jurisdiction is usually identified by state lines and the geographical boundaries that divide the country.  Obviously, each state has its own jurisdictional power and authority.  Yet, our federal government also has extraordinary power and federal courts are an extremely important jurisdiction to consider especially because they extend across the entire nation.  How do you distinguish between venue and jurisdiction?  Venue establishes where the case should be heard.  Jurisdiction establishes whether or not the court has authority over the defendant or the subject matter of the case.  You must be able to differentiate the various elements that construct jurisdiction because without it your case will be moot.  Here are the most important factors that make or break jurisdiction in Illinois car accident cases:

  • The people involved in the case.
  • The issues involved in the case.
  • Any connection to federal law.

ESTABLISHING VENUE IN CAR ACCIDENT CASES

You have to plead and prove venue in order for your car accident case to go forward in Illinois.  In order to understand how you do this, let us look at the law that governs, 735 ILCS 5/2-101:

“Generally. Except as otherwise provided in this Act, every action must be commenced (1) in the county of residence of any defendant who is joined in good faith and with probable cause for the purpose of obtaining a judgment against him or her and not solely for the purpose of fixing venue in that county, or (2) in the county in which the transaction or some part thereof occurred out of which the cause of action arose.”

From looking at the above law, it is apparent that there are a number of ways to establish venue in your car accident case.  You can do so by 1) pursuing a case in the county where the defendant resides  or by 2) pursuing a case in the county where the accident occurs.  Of course, this matter will be complicated if the defendant does not actually live in Illinois.  Yet, Illinois law actually answers that questions in 735 ILCS 5/2-101 when it says, “If all defendants are nonresidents of the State, an action may be commenced in any county.”

A related issues will come to the fore of your case if the defendant you are suing is an out-of-state corporation.  In that situation, where the company does not reside anywhere in Illinois, then you can file your lawsuit in whatever country jurisdiction where it conducts significant business.   This business connection with Illinois must be more than tangential, it must extend beyond what courts call “minimum contacts.”  Generally, what will count here is the company’s explicit and continuous operations within the state and not mere advertising or other passive connections to it.  However, courts look at this issue on a case-by-case basis and analyze every fact and circumstance that can tend towards or away from venue.  To understand this concept in greater detail, please review the following cases:

Stambaugh v. International Harvester, 102 Ill. 2d 250, 257-63 (1984); Wilson v. CentralIllinois Public Service, 165 Ill. App. 3d 533 (5th Dist. 1988).

CHANGING VENUE

A defendant can elect to try and change the venue of the case if he, she, or it believes that the original venue venue is improper or unfair.Yet, they must do so at the very first opportunity during the case or they will waive their right to object to the venue of the case forever.  To try and convince the judge that a specific venue is improper, the defendant must make a motion and argue that the plaintiff failed to show the defendant resides in that locality or that the incident occurred in that locality.  To try and convince the judge that a specific venue is unfair, the defendant must make a motion and argue the following things:

  1. That they cannot possibly have a fair trial in that venue.

2/3.      That two people have swore under oath that they have bias or prejudice against the plaintiff.

Are You An Illinois Resident Involved In An Out-of-State Car Accident?

We know that car accidents frequently occur while travelling with friends and family on roads and highways that may be far from your home. Our Illinois car accident lawyers have experiene settling and litigating auto related cases where the crash may have occurred across the country. Even if we are unable to represent you, we can refer you to an attorney we trust in the jurisdiction applicable to your case. We invite you to contact our office for a free review of your case and to discuss your options with an experienced car accident lawyer.

For more information on questions related to Car Accidents please visit the following pages: