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Suing Someone From Another State: What you need to Know

With nearly 95 million visitors to Florida every year, if you are injured in an auto accident in Florida, there is always a good chance the other driver is visiting from another state. A lot of people, therefore, wonder what will happen if the other driver is a foreign resident. Can I sue? Will they pay? Where do I have to file my claim or lawsuit? These are just some of the questions people often have when injured by someone from out of state. First, rest assured there is almost always a way to seek justice. It simply becomes a matter of how.

Can I sue?

Yes. You can technically sue anyone anytime for anything. Of course, this does not mean your case will succeed. If you are injured due to someone else’s negligence, you have a right to file a lawsuit seeking compensation. You must allege certain facts in order to maintain an action against another person or insurance company. These are fairly straightforward:

  • Parties: You must know who the defendants are.
  • Duty: The defendant must have a legally imposed duty (whether listed in a statute or implied by the law) to you in some way. In the case of an auto accident, all drivers owe each other a duty to use reasonable care.
  • Breach: You must allege the other party breached that duty in some way.
  • Proximate Cause: You must allege the other party’s breach was the direct reason for your injuries.
  • Damages: You have to show you were hurt in some way, whether physically, emotionally, financially, or in some other legally recognized way.

If you can in good faith make such allegations, then you likely can sue the other party. The question now boils down to which court will hear the case.

Where do I sue a foreign defendant?

This is a bit more complicated. Under the law, there is a concept known as minimum contacts. This is a test courts use to determine whether a person has voluntarily given a state jurisdiction to decide matters that concern him. In other words, you must “avail” yourself of the jurisdiction of a state. There are several basic ways to do this.

State of residence

It is assumed in the law that you choose your home state. Therefore, you are always subject to the jurisdiction of state courts in your state.

Doing business

A company, such as an insurer, must be licensed to do business in every state where it does business. By doing business in a state, holding itself out to do business there, selling products there, and so forth, it makes itself subject to that state’s laws and jurisdiction.

Voluntary presence in the state

Much like doing business, when you travel to another state, whether for business or personal reasons, you are subjecting yourself to its laws. Therefore, a driver who injures a Florida resident in this state is subject to the jurisdiction of this state.

Are there times when I couldn’t sue in Florida?

In a very abstract sense, yes. In some limited cases, these types of cases can be removed from the state courts and transferred to federal courts. For instance, if no defendant resides in Florida, he or she could seek removal to the nearest Federal District Court in Florida. So an accident in Tampa could possibly be moved to the Middle District of Florida. The court will still use Florida laws to decide the case, however. In some instances, the insurance company will also be named a defendant. If the insurance company does business in Florida, then this typically eliminates the chance of removal.

The rules applying to diversity of jurisdiction and suing multiple defendants are very complex, and every set of facts is unique. The smallest difference in facts can make a large difference in where and how a case will proceed. Therefore, it is imperative to hire a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney who can help. The Romero Law Firm handles personal injury and auto accident cases throughout the Tampa Bay area and is available for free consultations. Simply contact the Romero Law Firm and our dedicated team of attorneys today.

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