The Differences Between Federal and State Personal Injury Laws in Texas: An Overview from a Dallas Attorney

Depending on the residency of the defendant and plaintiff, lawyers must decide whether state or federal court is the most appropriate venue for personal injury litigation. Although state and federal courts have many similarities, important variances may determine a case's outcome.

Your attorney should weigh the benefits and drawbacks of bringing your personal injury lawsuit to each system before deciding where to bring your case to trial.

State vs. Federal Courts in Texas

The Differences Between Federal and State Personal Injury Laws in Texas: An Overview from a Dallas AttorneyIf you or a loved one have been injured or lost a loved one due to the carelessness or wrongdoing of a federal employee, you may be entitled to monetary compensation under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), a piece of federal law adopted in 1946.

A person may recover monetary damages from the U.S. government under the FTCA, with some exceptions, if the United States would have liability under the law of the location where the negligent or wrongful act or omission took place if it were a private person.

Aside from that, most victims must follow state laws and various rules on personal injury. For example, every civil claim valued at over $200 in Texas must be brought before a state district court. This court, often known as the "trial court," is where an attorney representing a client in a personal injury litigation will first appear on behalf of their client. If you lose in court and the verdict is upheld on appeal, you may use any objections you made during the trial to argue that the verdict was wrong.

After an appeal is filed, one of Texas's fourteen Courts of Appeals will review both sides' trial records and briefs to decide what legal questions remain. There are thirteen state appeals courts, each correlating geographically to one of the state's district courts.

The counsel for both sides files papers arguing the legal grounds for why the appeal judges should agree or disagree with the trial judge's or jury's decision. After reviewing the filings, the panel of appeal judges may opt to have an oral argument, giving each side's lawyers a chance to present their case in person and use the art of persuasion to argue their client's case. To convince the court that their legal position is valid, the parties come prepared to describe their arguments to the panel and answer questions from them during oral arguments.

How Does the Texas Supreme Court Work?

The Texas Supreme Court is the highest in the state and hears petitions for review of decisions made by lower courts in civil cases. If the petition is granted, a three-judge panel of the Texas Supreme Court will read papers from both sides, describing why they disagree with the appellate court's decision.

The Court may decide whether or not to hear oral arguments; nevertheless, judgments are increasingly being made based only on the parties' pleadings in the interest of judicial efficiency.

Federal Personal Injury Laws & Court System Rules

The federal court system is structured similarly to individual states, with the first jurisdiction resting with the district courts. Diversity of citizenship is the most frequent ground for establishing federal jurisdiction in a personal injury case, which means that the parties to the complaint do not all live in the same state. For a federal court to have jurisdiction, however, far more money must be at stake than in a state district court, namely $75,000 more.

A federal district court trial is quite similar to a Texas state court trial, regardless of whether the matter was originally filed in federal court or removed from a state court. After the jury has heard evidence and arguments from both sides, they will deliberate and reach a judgment. Objections filed during a trial preserve a case for appeal, just as they would in a state court.

Briefs from both sides explaining the legal reasoning behind why the federal circuit court hearing the case should agree or disagree with the district court's conclusions will be submitted to the federal circuit court having jurisdiction over the matter. After examining the parties' briefs, the panel of circuit judges may grant oral arguments to enable questioning and further consideration of the issues. The court's decision then might be issued in a variety of ways:

  • A court may overturn or uphold a lower court's ruling in favor of one side.
  • After deciding, the court may remand the matter back to the lower court with further directions.
  • After a circuit court issues a final ruling, the losing side has one last chance to appeal the decision. A writ of certiorari is used to ask the United States Supreme Court to review the case at this late stage. Although it gets hundreds of petitions yearly, the Supreme Court only hears around a hundred cases.
  • The parties will file a new brief to the Court explaining their positions if four of the nine justices choose to hear the case. After the Justices have reviewed the parties' filings and decided to hear oral arguments, the parties will have thirty minutes to offer their arguments. The Court's decision is final and cannot be appealed after it has been issued.

So, there are numerous parallels between the federal and Texas state systems, but the devil is in the details. 

State vs. Federal Jury Selection

The geographic area from which jurors are picked varies greatly depending on whether a personal injury lawsuit is filed in state or federal court. For instance, under the rules for a state district court, jurors will be drawn from the county the court serves.

On the other hand, the jurors in a federal district court must live inside the district itself, which may include multiple counties and stretch for hundreds of miles. The capacity of the attorney to "vet" prospective jurors to verify their fairness and impartiality is another distinguishing factor in jury selection. In state court, voir dire allows the lawyers for both sides to interview prospective jurors to weed out anybody who could be biased or who already has an opinion on how the case should be decided.

By contrast, in federal court, the judge has the discretion to conduct voir dire or to allow the counsel to do so. Thus, the judge has greater leeway in deciding whether to interrogate the jurors, defer to the counsel, or do both. Given the potential for variation in the level of depth with which individual federal judges carry out this procedure, this might be particularly impactful.

Needless to say, you and your lawyer must review all options regarding filing in either federal or state court. Both systems have advantages and disadvantages but are meant to be impartial and fair.

Call the Personal Injury Lawyers at the Rasansky Law Firm in Dallas

Car wrecks and other personal injuries affect thousands of families in Texas and the Dallas region alone.

While many of these accidents only cause minor injuries, some leave their victims permanently incapacitated and must deal with the aftermath.

Fortunately, at the Rasansky Law Firm, our attorneys have years of expertise in helping those injured due to someone else's negligence. To help our clients get the justice they are due, our seasoned and caring attorneys provide them with sound advice they can rely on. We'll look into what happened, compile the relevant information, and evaluate your potential next steps in court.

Call (214) 617-1886 for a free first case review if you've been harmed in Texas and want to know what to do next. Our Dallas personal injury lawyers will spare no effort in pursuit of the full and just compensation you and your loved ones deserve after your accident.



2525 McKinnon Street #550 Dallas, Texas 75201

Note: The information that was utilized in this post was gathered from the use of secondary sources. This information used has not been confirmed or independently verified. If you locate any information that is not correct, please contact our firm as soon as possible so that we can make the appropriate corrections. If you find any information that is false, we will remove or correct the post immediately after it is brought to our attention.

Disclaimer: As a valued member of the Dallas community, Rasansky Law Firm’s goal is to improve the safety of all residents in the great state of Texas. These posts should not be viewed as a solicitation for business and the information included herein should not be taken as medical or legal advice. The photos used in this post are not representative of the actual crash scene.

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