Should I file my Jones Act case in state or federal court?
A Jones Act claim will always be governed by federal substantive law. Most, if not all, general maritime claims will also be governed by federal substantive law. However, an injured Jones Act seaman or maritime worker may be able to file his claim in state court. When you first speak with your lawyer, you should ask him to tell you whether you should file your claim in a federal or state court, and why. A good Jones Act lawyer or maritime lawyer should be able to tell you immediately where you should file your claim and tell you why as well. If the lawyer can't tell you immediately, considering going elsewhere for legal help. What are some of the considerations when deciding where to file your Jones Act injury claim or maritime injury claim? Since federal law will apply, where you file the case will depend on procedural issues and pragmatic onces as well. From a procedural standpoint, you may be able to get more pre-suit discovery in state court. Many federal courts limit the amount of pre-suit discovery you can conduct severely. Discovery is a good way to get at the truth of what caused the maritime injury, so consider state court if the discovery rules are more expansive. A pragmatic consideration is whether the state court options provide a more people-friendly venue that federal court. In Texas, for example, an injured Jones Act seaman can file his injury claims where he resided at the time of the claim in some situations. In other words, the injured Jones Act seaman can file close to home, presumably where his family lives and where his doctors are located. Also, voir dire in federal court is generally more limited. For some reason, federal judges like to conduct their own voir dire and limit voir dire from the lawyers ("voir dire" is the process of selecting a jury). If you want more input into the jury selection process, you should almost always file a Jones Act injury claim or a maritime injury claim in state court. There are many other considerations when deciding where to bring a Jones Act injury claim or a maritime injury claim. A good lawyer will be able to walk you through these decisions and explain why you should file in a particular venue.