We often think of the court system as a single unified entity. But there are many different types of cases that courts must hear, from issues as small as a speeding ticket to those as serious as defrauding the federal government. Generally, the court system within each state—and at the federal level—is divided up into specialized courts that hear only certain kinds of cases. The kinds of cases a court can hear are known as its jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction can be divided by both the type of case and the seriousness of the case. For example, a court that hears local criminal cases may not hear local civil lawsuits, because the two types of cases are so different. Similarly, the Georgia Superior Court will hear felony criminal cases, which are very serious, but not misdemeanor cases like traffic violations, which are handled by the local branch of the State Court or even smaller local courts.
Finally, there are courts that exist only to hear appeals from cases of lower courts, such as the Georgia Supreme Court.
It’s important to file your case in the correct court. If you don’t, the defendant may get the case thrown out of the court, forcing you to re-file in the proper court. This takes time and money and in some cases could even put you past the statute of limitations. In other cases, filing in the wrong court could get your case dismissed by the judge, meaning you lose.
Which court do I file my lawsuit in?
In Georgia, there are two main courts that could take your personal injury lawsuit:
- Magistrate Court. If there is a local Magistrate Court covering your area, and if the total damages you’re requesting are $15,000 or less, the Magistrate Court will take your case. This is most common with small injuries like those caused by dog bites and some slip and fall accidents.
- State Court. If your damages are more than $15,000, or if there is no Magistrate Court, the State Court can take your case. Many car accident cases go to state court.
There are also circumstances where you may be able to file in federal court instead. These include:
- If the parties in your case are from different states. For example, if you live in Georgia and were struck by a Florida driver in a pedestrian accident, you could file in federal court.
- If your case involves a federal law. For example, if you allege that another business stole your patented invention under federal patent law, you can file in federal court. Class action lawsuits like dangerous drug recalls are federal cases.
You should hire an experienced lawyer who has handled cases like yours before. Your lawyer can choose the correct court and make sure your case is filed properly. In some cases, they will even have a choice of filing in several different courts, and can choose the one that’s most favorable to your type of case.
Have you been injured? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.