Explaining Legal Jurisdiction In A Personal Injury Case
The Turners were involved in a rear-end collision in Durrant in February. Since then, they have been “living” in the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. The car accident was severe, and it is a miracle that anyone made it out alive. However, the drivers, the children’s grandparents, walked away from the accident. The accident affected the three children the most. The three Turner children were visiting their grandparents in Fort Worth, and were on their way back to Oklahoma when the accident occurred.
Five-year-old Samuel was airlifted to Dallas after the accident. His liver was lacerated and he had a fractured pelvis. He had also broken his leg. Three-year-old Aleigh was released from the emergency room that night, but two-year-old Victoria was in bad shape. The family and doctors were unsure that she would live. Doctors were able to control the swelling in her brain, but then her lungs began to fail. She spent three weeks on a breathing machine before making a gradual recovery. The family is really looking forward to being able to go home again, with everyone safe and sound.
LEGAL JURISDICTION IN PERSONAL INJURY CASES
The Turner family could sue the driver who rear-ended the van carrying the children. Generally, when there is a rear-end collision, the driver who hit the rear-end of the other vehicle is at fault, and this case is probably no different. What makes this case unique, however, is that it occurred outside of the family’s home state of Oklahoma.
In order for a court to have “power” over the people and the conflict, it must have jurisdiction over both of these aspects of the case. The first element is called personal jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction determines whether the court has a power over the people involved in the case. Having jurisdiction over the situation is called subject matter jurisdiction.
Where the person lives will generally determine whether the court has personal jurisdiction. That means that the Oklahoma court would have personal jurisdiction over this family because they live in Oklahoma. In fact, the state of Oklahoma has jurisdiction over anyone and everyone that is a citizen of the state or does business in that state. A court can also have personal jurisdiction in a personal injury case wherever the accident occurs. So, in this case, the state of Texas also has personal injury over the children because the accident occurred in Texas, even though the children are actually citizens of Oklahoma.
SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
Subject matter jurisdiction is based on whether the court is allowed to hear cases of the type before it. Generally, any state district court can hear a personal injury case. However, there are some courts that can only hear certain types of cases. For example, there are sometimes certain local courts that will only hear criminal cases while other courts can only hear tax issues. These courts obviously would not have the ability to hear a personal injury case.
Since the accident occurred in Texas, this family could sue in a district-level state court. In that court, they would have both personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. For more information about jurisdiction in Dallas, contact Slack Davis Sanger.