Unless you are a lawyer, you probably don’t think about the specific procedures for filing a lawsuit. While you should always work with a knowledgeable Rhode Island insurance attorney if you are considering suing an insurance company, it can also be helpful to understand some of the procedural rules surrounding the case. A recent case heard by the Federal District Court of Rhode Island discusses these procedural requirements.
In order for a court to hear a case, they must have jurisdiction over the matter and the parties. Typically, claims related to insurance or personal injury are heard in state court. However, the case may be removed to federal court if certain conditions are met. One of the ways that a case may be eligible to be heard in federal court is through diversity jurisdiction.
Diversity jurisdiction is where, as here, the parties are from different states. If an individual is suing an insurance company, the individual will of course be considered a resident of the state that they live in. For an insurance company it can be more complicated, but the court will usually look to where the company is headquartered and the state that they are incorporated in. Once the parties are determined to be truly diverse, then the other requirement to get into federal court is the amount in controversy question.
This case primarily revolved around the amount in controversy requirement and how it is determined. Along with diversity, for federal court to have jurisdiction the amount in controversy must be at least $75,000. The court will look at the relief requested in the complaint to determine the amount in controversy initially. If one party is trying to prevent removal or is trying to remove the case to federal court, they can show that the amount in controversy is less or more (depending on their position) than the amount plead in the complaint.
Keep in mind that this will not determine the ultimate damage award, though strategically a plaintiff may want to be careful about what damages they plead. Though in terms of federal court, the standard of proof is that the amount must be proven to a legal certainty. For example, if someone was in a very minor car accident where there were no injuries and they only suffered $10,000 in property damages, a party opposing removal can show proof of the actual damages. The court requires these pleadings to be in good faith.
However, if a plaintiff wants to keep the case in state court they can ask for less than $75,000, even if they can prove damages above that amount. It is a plaintiff’s right to ask for less than their actual damages so the case cannot be removed even if the defense can prove greater damages (they would not want to do this anyway as it would likely hurt their case).
Contact an Experienced Rhode Island Insurance Attorney Today!
As you can see, there are so many moving parts and strategic decisions that need to be made in every case. That’s why it’s so important that you work with a skilled Rhode Island insurance attorney if you are having trouble getting the benefits you are owed. The knowledgeable insurance attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, can help hold the insurance company accountable. Call (401) 300-4055 or use the form on this web site to contact us today for a free consultation!
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