When you have a personal injury lawsuit, it can be confusing as to which court handles it. Most likely it will be the state. The state is responsible for handling over 98% of litigation. The state courts typically have two levels: special and general. Special jurisdiction courts handle specific cases where general jurisdiction courts handle all the other case.
Special jurisdiction courts go by several names depending upon the location. These include district, city, mayor’s, justice, justice of the peace, magistrate, county, police, and municipal courts. These special courts hear minor civil and criminal cases such as traffic violations. Many times they have jurisdiction over all juvenile cases.
General jurisdiction courts hear the more serious criminal and civil cases. In addition, they also take domestic relations and local and state tax cases. These courts also go by different names depending upon state.
There are five states that have unified trial courts. In these courts, all cases are heard.
There are a lot less federal cases than civil. Annually, there are less than 500,000. About 80% of these are civil, and 20% are criminal. Federal cases are typically much more complicated than civil.
Civil suits filed in federal courts include civil rights actions, prisoner petitions, patent infringement cases, and Social Security cases. For criminal suits, issues include tax fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, robbery, and drug cases. Drug cases account for largest category.
For personal injury lawsuits, sometimes you may choose between federal and state courts. The state and federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction over issues which are not designated specifically to one court. For example, if two people were from different states and had an issue with a state law, then the case could go before a federal or state judge since jurisdiction overlaps. However, for a case to be heard in a federal court the “amount in controversy” must exceed $75,000. When parties are from separate states, it is termed diversity jurisdiction. In Article III of the Constitution, federal courts are given jurisdiction over these cases. However, due to convenience, people are allowed to choose which court they’d like to pursue.
Sometimes both courts systems can be involved when an incident has both criminal and civil violations. For the most part, cases will only be reviewed by one court.