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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Important Intersection of Two Courts

This article is about Jurisdiction. Specifically how can Jurisdiction work for you.

Jurisdiction in the legal world means that a court has the power to hear a case. Courts have different Jurisdictions. A family law court can only hear family law issues. A criminal court can only hear criminal issues. Thus a judge in a criminal court can not order a divorce because it is outside the courts jurisdiction.

Sometimes an issue arises that falls under multiple jurisdictions. It is important to have a lawyer who can handle your claim in multiple jurisdictions. Otherwise you may lose out on rights or monetary awards.

A very common example of this is a person involved in a car accident while working. This does not just apply to truck drivers and couriers. If your boss told you to drive to the bank and were involved in an accident or you were picking up sandwiches for a staff lunch and got rear-ended. These too are examples of work related car accidents.

For example, consider the case of Bob. Bob is an employee of Megacorp. Bob was told to drive some important documents from Megacorp HQ to the post office. His boss told him, "Get these delivered before 5pm or you are fired!" It was 4.30 and Bob would have to drive fast to get to the post office on time. Bob drove as fast as he could to the post office. While passing through an intersection Bob was T-boned by Jane's car. Bob had very serious injuries and was taken to the hospital. What should Bob do?

There are two courts with jurisdiction over the case. Civil courts have the power to hear cases of general jurisdiction, meaning car accidents, personal injury cases along with most other cases. At the same time, because the Bob was at work he could file a workers' compensation claim at the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board(WCAB).

What should Bob do?

Answer: File a claim in both courts!

Filing a claim in the WCAB gives Bob the following remedies for his injuries. First, Bob would be entitled to Temporary Total Disability benefits. As long as Bob is disabled from working, his employer, or rather the insurance company, will pay Bob a salary replacement benefit. This is good for Bob because while he is off work due to injury he will still have to pay rent, eat and put gas in his car.
Second, Bob would be entitled to free medical care for his injuries. FREE. No cost, no copay.
Third, Bob would be reimbursed for his mileage when he drives to and from his doctor appointments.
Fourth, Bob would receive an award for his level of disability as a result of the accident.

Filing a claim in civil court entitles Bob to a claim against the other driver. In civil court Bob can recover lost earning, medical costs, pain and suffering damages, emotional injury, future lost earning, future medical costs and many others.

The biggest difference between the two courts is negligence. In workers' compensation there is no need to prove negligence. Bob need only show that he was working when the accident occured and he would be compensated. Bob could have CAUSED the accident and he would still recover full case value at the WCAB!

On the otherhand, in civil court Bob must prove that Jane had some cause in the accident to recover. If Bob is found to be totally at fault, he will get no money and lose his civil case. In certain situations Bob may even owe Jane money. The risk is greater in civil court but the reward can be greater.

Which is worth more? You can' t tell until you file both claims. Which is why having an attorney who can handle both claims for Bob will maximize the amount of money he recovers.

Remember when choosing an attorney to help you with your injuries, make sure they are willing and able to explore all available courts for you so you can receive what you are owed!

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