Can a Non-U.S. Citizen File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Ohio?

Jul 07, 2017 Ohio Personal Injury

Posted by: Kisling, Nestico & Redick, LLC

Non-citizens can file personal injury lawsuits in Ohio. In America, the right to access the courts and make legal claims is not affected by citizenship. That being said, there are ways in which your case adversaries could use your citizenship against you. For example, the defendants might remove the case to federal court, which may put your claim at a disadvantage, or attempt to have your claim dismissed because there may be a more appropriate legal forum.

In most personal injury cases, however, the citizenship of the plaintiff is unlikely to affect the outcome of the lawsuit. In fact, most personal injury claims do not even make it to court – they are resolved through the insurance claims process or through direct settlements between the parties. But just because your case isn’t going to court doesn’t mean you don’t need a lawyer.

Anytime you want to make a formal demand for compensation for an injury – be it a demand letter, a claim with an insurance company, or a lawsuit – a skilled Ohio personal injury lawyer can vastly improve your chances for success. If you’ve been injured and need compensation, call Kisling, Nestico & Redick today at 1-800-HURT-NOW for a free consultation.

When Might My Citizenship Affect the Outcome of my Personal Injury Case?

There are two ways in which the party against whom you are filing a personal injury claim might use your foreign citizenship to their advantage: removal to federal court or making a claim of forum non convenens. Your chances of encountering either hurdle are highest when suing a corporation, but even then, it is likely your legal battle will center on more common issues such as proving negligence or overcoming an implied assumption of risk.

Federal courts will have jurisdiction (meaning they have power over the litigants and the authority to hear the case) over your personal injury claim if all parties to the lawsuit are citizens of different states or nations, and your claim includes a demand for $75,000 or more in damages. Alternatively, your personal injury claim might come under federal jurisdiction if it involves a question of federal law, which might be the case if you are an injured sailor or railroad worker, for whom compensation for work related injuries is governed by federal statutes.

If your claim meets the criteria for federal jurisdiction, you may choose to file your claim in either state or federal court.

The Defendant May Remove Your Case to Federal Court

You and your lawyer may look at all the facts and decide it’s more advantageous for you to file in state court. You would file the suit in Ohio if your injury occurred within the state or if that is where the business or individual who wronged you resides. In response to your suit in state court, the defendant may seek to remove the case to federal court. The defendant may attempt to do so because of:

  • A greater familiarity with federal procedures, which are different than state court procedures (many corporate lawyers spend most of their time in federal courts)
  • Your lawyer may not know federal procedures or may have a “home court” advantage in the state court because they frequently litigate there
  • Federal courts select their juries from a wider pool, so it’s less likely that the jury will be composed of members of your community, who may be favorable to you
  • It could be more costly and less convenient for you to pursue the claim in federal court (for reasons as simple as it being a long drive to the federal courthouse)
  • Federal cases generally move faster than state court cases, and the rules of discovery (requesting paper evidence from the other party) are more cost effective for corporate litigants under federal law.

The Defendant Might Argue that You Are Filing Your Claim in the Wrong Court

The once-obscure common law doctrine of forum non conveniens (meaning inconvenient or inappropriate forum) has gained popularity as a way for US-based defendants to avoid facing lawsuits filed by foreign plaintiffs or involving injuries that occurred outside of the United States.

This tactic is especially popular in products liability and other types of tort claims against corporate defendants. If you are a foreign national who was injured in your home country by an American-designed product, the defendant corporation may successfully have your case dismissed under the doctrine of forum non convenens. You may still file your lawsuit in your home country, but it may be harder for you to get compensation there (in many countries, even relatively straightforward civil lawsuits can take decades to resolve).

Getting Legal Help You Can Rely On

If you’re a foreign national who has been injured in the United States, you should seek immediate professional assistance when hiring a personal injury lawyer – even if you are undocumented. Your illegal presence on US soil does not bar you from filing suit. For more information, call Kisling, Nestico & Redick today at 1-800-HURT-NOW.