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What if my accident occurred out of state?

Many clients come to us exasperated because their truck accident occurred outside of Illinois and they believe there is nothing that they can do in Illinois. However, we try to explain to them that they can still seek relief here in the Land of Lincoln, provided they meet a certain set of conditions. Whether or not they can relates to the legal issue of venue, which we will turn to now. This is not to be confused jurisdiction, which we will address subsequently.

What is ‘venue’ and how does it relate to a truck accident case?

What if my accident occurred out of state?Venue is defined as the place where a case should be heard and is measured at the county level. Normally, it is found to be the most convenient or proper location for the trial of that case. How is that place normally identified? Well, here are a few common threads that lawyers point to in order to determine venue:

  • Where does the defendant reside?
  • Where did the accident or agreement arise?
  • Where did the parties mutually agree to have the case?

How do I establish venue in a commercial vehicle accident lawsuit?

In an Illinois truck accident a case, you have to state and prove venue. But how do you do that? To answer that question, let us look at the statute:

“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.” 735 ILCS 5/2-101

This does not seem that hard. You can file your lawsuit in the county where the accident occurred or where the defendants live. However, what if no defendant in the case resides in Illinois? Well, to that Illinois law responds with the following: “If all defendants are nonresidents of the State, an action may be commenced in any county.” 735 ILCS 5/2-101

A similar question arises when an out-of-state corporation is a defendant. In that case, assuming it is not a resident of any county in Illinois, then you can bring the case in any county where it transacts business. However, the company’s relationship with the county must be more than “minimum contacts” (i.e. advertising in the county). Therefore, there must be some substantial corporate operations within the county to qualify for the venue. This analysis is heavily dependent on the facts and circumstances of the individual case and might even require more than a few random acts of work to pass the threshold. Stambaugh v. International Harvester, 102 Ill. 2d 250, 257-63 (1984); Wilson v. Central Illinois Public Service, 165 Ill. App. 3d 533 (5th Dist. 1988).

Can the venue be changed after a truck accident lawsuit is filed in court?

Yes. If a defendant feels that a certain venue is improper or unfair, then they can object to that location. However, if they do not do so at the first opportunity, then they waive any right they have to challenge that venue. To argue that the venue is improper, they must file a motion stating the grounds as to why the plaintiff did not establish the defendant’s residence within that state or that the accident did not occur within that state. To argue that the venue is proper but unfair (i.e that it places an onerous burden on them), defendants can file a motion to change it to one that would be more fair provided they insert three affidavits within that motion:

1. They state all the reasons why they cannot obtain a fair trial within the original venue.
2/3. Two people from the original venue must swear that they have bias or prejudice towards the plaintiff.

The judge will rule on this matter as a question of law before the trial proceeds but he must do so before any substantial matter has been resolved or else the defendant waives his or her right to challenge it.

How is this different from jurisdiction?

While often confused with the venue, jurisdiction is a distinctly separate legal issue. Jurisdiction refers to the area or persons over which courts have power. Normally, we associate jurisdictions by geography. For example, every state is a jurisdiction unto itself and we can easily see on the map where they hold sway. However, we live in a federal system of government and the federal branch also holds authority in every state of the union. The issue of venue goes to where should a case be decided. The issue of jurisdiction goes to whether the court has power at all over the defendant. When deciding the latter, courts look to the subject matter of the case as well as the person who is in front of them to make that determination. They must be able to illustrate proper authority to both of these points in order to wield power.

Do you have questions about pursuing an Illinois truck crash case?

As you can see from the discussion above, determining when and where to pursue a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a truck accident can be a complex situation. Our law firm has experience pursuing truck crash cases in both Federal and State Courts in Illinois. Furthermore, in some circumstances, we have litigated crashes in other states. Regardless of where your case occurred, we invite you to contact our office for a free case review with an attorney who can advise you of your legal rights without cost on your part.

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