Written By Christopher Dolan and Jeremy Jessup
This week’s question comes from D. Conger from San Bruno who asks: While traveling in Washington, I was involved in a motor vehicle collision that resulted in injuries. The funny thing is that I found out the person who struck my vehicle was from San Jose. I had initial treatment in Washington and more once I returned home. In addition, I have missed a substantial amount of time from work. I would like to seek compensation for this collision but don’t have the energy to try and find an attorney up there. Do I have to have an attorney from the state of Washington represent me?
I am sorry to read about your ordeal and wish you a speedy recovery. With the summer months upon us, research shows that summer travel is returning to pre-pandemic levels. The most recent data on summer travel suggests that it will be busy this year, as a recent survey from The Vacationer found that nearly 81 percent of Americans were planning to travel. According to Janeen Christoff of Travel Pulse, road trips remain one of the most popular forms of travel in a post-pandemic world. The nearly 80 percent of travelers who said they were going to take a road trip make up approximately 206 million Americans. Almost 20 percent will travel more than 500 miles from home by car. Also, nearly 7 percent say they will take road trips more than 1,000 miles from home.
With all those people on the road, collisions are bound to occur across state lines.
The simple answer to your question about whether you need local counsel, is that it depends. In most cases, while you live out of state, you may need to hire an attorney licensed in the state where the collision occurs to represent you. However, that is not always the case.
The correct venue (the county or district where a case must be heard) is one of two places. It is where the injury-causing event occurred, in this case, the motor vehicle collision, or where the defendant resides. If one were to elect where the defendant resides for your case, that would be Santa Clara County, here in California. In that case, you would not need to find an attorney up in the state of Washington. However, the important thing to remember is that in most cases, the laws of where the collision occurred would still apply; in this case, that would be the state of Washington. Some attorneys are comfortable dealing with the laws of other states, and some are not.
However, let’s assume that the defendant was a resident of the state of Washington. Again, local counsel would be required, but you could still hire someone from California. In that case, the attorney, if they agreed, could seek to get “pro hoc vice” (Latin for “on this occasion”) into the State of Washington. If the court grants the motion, the California attorney, with the supervision of the local attorney, would be granted a temporary license to practice in the state of Washington, but only on your case. In most instances, the California attorney you select will already know someone in the other state, which is why they agreed to accept the case. You would not need to try and find two attorneys.
With the advancement of technology and courts allowing for remote appearances, it is now as easy as ever for attorneys to represent clients in different states. For example, all attorneys at our firm are licensed in California. However, some are licensed in Oregon, Washington, Georgia, Arizona, Texas, and Massachusetts. We have handled all aspects of litigation in these states, including trials in some.
Finally, an attorney in California may hold licenses in other states, allowing them to practice in multiple jurisdictions. Essentially, this means that even though the attorney of your choice resides in one state, if they hold a license in another, they can freely practice there, as if they were local.
Remember, no matter who you choose to represent you, be sure to document everything, lost earnings, medical treatment, and symptoms, and provide them to your attorney. As a team you will work together to get the best result.