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What if my bike accident occurred out of Illinois?

What if my accident occurred out of state?Several of the people we have worked with on bike accident cases initially were confused and scared that they would not be able to bring a lawsuit at all because it occurred outside of Illinois.  What they fail to realize, and what we urgently remind them of, is that your incident occurring outside of Illinois will not necessarily preclude you from filing and pursuing a case in Illinois.  The key issue that determines your right to bring an action is known as venue.  We will discuss that now as well as some related topics.



WHAT EXACTLY IS VENUE?

It is not counter intuitive to assert that plaintiffs should not be allowed to sue people or entities in certain forums.  If two people get into a dispute in Florida, then maybe the claimant should not be able to enter an action in Alaska if neither has any connection to that state.  This would strike many as unfair.  To decide where two parties should settle their grievances, the court must decide which legal venue is appropriate.  Venue is a legal term that designates the proper setting for a lawsuit.  Generally, it is the most convenient place or the place where the underlying events occurred.  Here are some components that normally indicate where venue will be chosen:

  • Where do the plaintiffs/defendant reside?
  • Where did the incident or undertaking occur?
  • Where did the parties both decide the case should be?

DOES NOT JURISDICTION DETERMINE WHERE THE CASE IS?

Many people confuse jurisdiction with venue.  It is not hard to imagine why because they look similar, are often decided in close proximity to each other, and sound interchangeable.  However, they are separate concepts unto themselves and require individual attention.  As discussed above, venue attempts to identify where a case should be decided, but jurisdiction answers if the court as the power to here a case at all.  There are different kinds of jurisdiction.

Personal jurisdiction relates to the court’s power of people.  Subject matter jurisdiction refers to the court’s power over particular issues.  Of course, there are state and federal jurisdictions in America and each have varying spheres of personal and subject matter jurisdiction.  States including Illinois also have long-arm statutes that provide for when they have jurisdiction over out-of-state parties (note this is different than the process of identifying when venue is proper for out-of-state parties or incidents).  Illinois’ long arm statute is 735 ILCS 5/2-209.  Within that section, you can find all of the circumstances when jurisdiction over out-of-state jurisdiction is warranted including the following:

  • The transaction of any business within this State;
  • The commission of a tortious act within this State;
  • The ownership, use, or possession of any real estate situated in this State;
  • Contracting to insure any person, property or risk located within this State at the time of contracting;

HOW DO I PROVE VENUE IN A BICYCLE ACCIDENT CASE?

Let’s go right to the statute to answer this question.  You can find it in 735 ILCS 5/2-101:

“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.”

As a practical point, you actually have to plead in your complaint and prove at trial that venue is proper.  Taking a cue from the highlighted language above, it seems fairly straightforward.  To prove venue, you can file and pursue a bike accident case in Illinois in 1) the county where the collision happened 2) county where the defendant lives or 3) any county if the defendant does not live in Illinois.  According to 735 ILCS 5/2-101, “If all defendants are nonresidents of the State, an action may be commenced in any county.”

WHAT IF THE DEFENDANT IS A CORPORATION?

A related issue emerges if the defendant is a company. For that situation, and for the purposes of this hypothetical, assuming the company is from out of state, then you still bring the case in any Illinois county as showed above in 735 ILCS 5/2-101.  Yet, you can only do so if you satisfy a specific legal test known as “minimum contacts.”  By this, the law generally dictates that a business have some relationship with the state where venue was chosen beyond mere “minimum contacts.”  Generally, it demands some kind of affirmative action on behalf of the company whereby it interacts with the state.  Therefore, actively and continuously performing work in the venue state will probably qualify but to advertising to the venue state among other states might not qualify.  Courts look to the unique facts of the case to determine if venue is proper and might look to such things as duration of work, frequency of work, and scope of work to justify their answer.

For more information, please see the following cases 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 VENUE BE MOVED?

In certain instances, defendants may be able to transfer the venue of the case from court to another.  They typically do this for two reasons.  First, they often challenge the venue if they think it is improper.  To challenge venue on the grounds of impropriety, defendants must claim and show that there is no residency or any other contact sufficient to justify why the original court should be the forum for the case.  Second, many defendants challenge the venue because they think it would be unfair.  To challenge venue on the grounds of unfairness, defendants must exhibit three things: list all the reasons why they cannot have a fair trial in the original court venue and provide affidavits of people from the original venue that claim they are prejudiced or biased against the plaintiff.

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