Licensed in Missouri and Kansas

The Difference Between Missouri State Courts and Federal Courts in Personal Injury Cases

As personal injury lawyers handling cases on both sides of the state line in Kansas City, we have a lot of experience litigating cases in court. Most of our lawsuits are handled at the state court level, but sometimes we find ourselves in federal court. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, meaning certain conditions need to be met before you can file suit there. From our experience, it is much better to prosecute personal injury cases in state court than federal court. Here are a few reasons why.

In federal court, jury verdicts must be unanimous, whereas in Missouri courts, only 9 out of 12 jurors must agree on the verdict. If someone on the jury is unreasonable or refuses to agree to a verdict, this often results in compromise verdicts with much less money compensation. If one or two jurors disagree with a verdict amount in a Missouri state court trial, then they can refuse to sign the verdict form but the verdict will still be final. If a juror disagrees with a verdict amount in a Federal court trial and refuses to sign a verdict form, then the judge will declare a mistrial and the parties will have to try the case again with a different jury. To avoid a redo, Federal juries are often pressured to reach a compromise so that everyone will agree. This often applies to the amount of money in the verdict and can reduce a plaintiff’s compensation.

In federal court, judges often limit the amount of time lawyers can spend in jury selection, whereas in Missouri courts, jury selection is usually unlimited. Jury selection is the trial lawyers’ chance to remove jurors who aren’t qualified because of bias, prejudice, or other reasons. It takes time and skill to tease out potential jurors’ biases and prejudices, so when jury selection is limited, people who are biased or prejudiced against the plaintiff have a better chance of making it onto the jury.

In federal court, generally speaking, there are a lot more legal filings than Missouri state court. Federal court judges typically require more pleadings like briefs, motions, and proposed orders, than Missouri state court judges. This adds time and expense to a case that could otherwise be avoided in Missouri state court.

These are but a few of the differences between federal court and state court in Missouri and why Missouri state courts are usually preferable to federal courts.