If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, a complex and evolving set of laws will govern the case. Rules governing civil suits and liabilities change, as do workers compensation laws. With those facts in mind, the lawyers of Russell and Hill PLLC want readers to know how recent Supreme Court rulings might impact their personal injury case.

Limits on Filing Locations

Two individuals in different states filed suit against Texas-based BNSF Railway Company for injuries. The company appealed judgments against them. In this case, in an 8-1 ruling the Supreme Court declared that states cannot hear cases regarding injuries that were sustained outside the state where the case is filed. The same ruling also bans state courts from hearing cases against companies headquartered in another state.

Previously, plaintiffs had been able to file suit against a company in the state where it was incorporated or where it was headquartered, or in any state where the company did a significant amount of business. Sonia Sotomayor was the dissenting vote in the case, claiming that overturning the lower court ruling would be a “windfall” for corporations, who could force injured individuals to pursue their cases in faraway locations.

Implications for Businesses

As stated above, plaintiffs once enjoyed more flexibility in where to file suit. If an Oregon company had a store in Vancouver, a person injured there could sue there. This new ruling might make lawsuits much less expensive for companies in two ways. Some jurisdictions are more “business friendly” others, so a company may limit its exposure to losses in lawsuits by incorporating there.

This Supreme Court ruling puts many plaintiffs at a huge disadvantage. The defendant may be based out of a state that is hostile to civil suits, making a victory more likely. It may be easier for the company’s legal team to get a settlement that goes against the injured person’s interests.

Implications for Washington Residents

The implications of this Supreme Court ruling seem clear enough. If you live in Western Washington, and where injured by a company while you were in Idaho or Oregon, you would have to file suit in those states. Businesses that are not incorporated in Washington State and are not based here probably are not going to be subject to personal injury suits here.

If you were injured outside the state, you can expect to file suit in the company’s “home” state. Pressing a legal claim in a distant state can be expensive and more stressful. The stress and cost of suing someone across the country may encourage plaintiffs to settle.

Suing a company for causing or contributing to a major injury is difficult. The law is complicated, the other party will have expert legal counsel, and the victims will have major medical issues to deal with. This is why injured people or their family members need to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after a serious accident.

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