That was the last thing you yelled before the tempered automotive glass exploded around you and the loose change in your console took flight.
As the twisted mass of steel that was your trusty car only moments ago comes to a stop, you slowly realize what’s happening; you’re in a car wreck.
The 5 Ws.
If you’ve ever had a reason to consider a lawsuit, you probably focused your time on the other 4 Ws (Who, What, When, & Why), but I bet you didn’t spend much time considering the
“Where.” However, knowing where you can file your lawsuit can sometimes be just as important as knowing who you can sue.
Since you’re the person initiating the lawsuit, you get first choice in where to file the suit and as any real estate agent will tell you; the key is location, location, location. When you challenged someone to a race as a kid, you wanted it in your own backyard because you knew where every dip, hill, and pothole was. You want this same advantage in court.
Where Did He Come From?
Those are your first words to yourself as the airbag smoke clears the air. That is, IF you can even speak with lungs full of that pungent chemical concoction that feels like you’re inhaling sand. Those of you that have smelled it know exactly what I’m talking about. Although it may seem like he just came out of nowhere, you know that he didn’t magically appear out of thin air; and that’s our first clue of where to file the lawsuit.
That’s right. Where does he live? One of your first options in choosing where to file is the other guy’s county of residence. I won’t go into the endless possibilities for his county of residence being beneficial for you, perhaps he has a bad reputation at home and you know that it will work to your advantage, but that’s the sort of strategy that you and your attorney need to discuss.
—See Venue: General Rule–Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §15.002(a)(2)
Alternatively, if the other guy was driving a company truck and you’re suing the company, you can choose to file your suit in the county of that company’s principal office in Texas.
—See Venue: General Rule–Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §15.002(a)(3)
Where Am I?
Your passenger hit her head terribly hard during the wreck and doesn’t know what just happened. You two were on a road trip far from home; still in Texas, but in a different county. This is our second clue of where to file the lawsuit.
Where did the wreck take place? Under Texas law, you can choose to file your lawsuit “in the county in which all or a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred.” Depending on your facts, you’ll have to decide whether this county gives you some advantage, but it’s important to know your options.
—See Venue: General Rule–Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §15.002(a)(1)
Where Do You Live?
As you’re being loaded onto a stretcher while being swarmed over by paramedics, they’re yelling questions at you and trying to determine how badly you’re injured. One of the questions they ask as they load you on an air ambulance is about your home address to test your short term memory; and that’s our third clue of where to file the lawsuit.
Where is your county of residence? If neither of the above apply to your situation, then you turn to the county where you resided when the wreck happened. For most people, this is the county they want to turn to first but Texas law saves it as a last resort.
—See Venue: General Rule–Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §15.002(a)(4)
This is by no means an all inclusive summary of Texas law on Venue, but it should be enough to get you thinking about a legal topic that you hadn’t considered before. Choosing the location of your coming fight isn’t cheating or even dishonest because it is a well preserved right outlined by your legislature.
Just as you would with any other fight, you want to choose the time and place that gives you the best tactical advantage over your adversary. I can’t tell you which of the above works best because as with any situation, differing facts require differing strategies. Make sure that you discuss your trial strategy with your attorney at your initial consultation.
***Special Thanks to Tammy Fisher of Sonora, Texas for helping choose today’s topic and to everyone else that participated in this week’s Reader’s Choice Poll on Facebook and Twitter.***
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479