Those who know a thing or two about legal matters probably know the term “venue.” Most often this comes up when one side or the other asks for a “change of venue.” The kind of jockeying around that lawyers do about venue is frequently perceived as the worst kind of petty tactics. Yet, for a personal injury attorney who is fighting for the best possible outcome, a great deal depends upon the outcome of venue litigation.
Why so much time and emphasis placed upon venue? The simple fact of the matter is that cases which cannot be settled go to court, and the place they go to court can matter a great deal. Your personal injury case will likely be decided by jurors who have lived in the city or county for at least the last six months. And, cities and counties are very different. Within our own Hampton Roads area, the difference in demographics can be quite dramatic.The seven major venues that form the Hampton Roads metropolitan region vary by race, ethnicity, politics, income and in so many other ways. While it can be hard to guess which venue might be the best for a given case, experienced personal injury lawyers stay attuned to jury verdicts. They also pay attention to their client’s characteristics and the characteristics of the important witnesses in the case.
Why do personal injury victims even have a choice of venue? The Virginia Code actually gives plaintiffs the right to begin legal proceedings in any “permissible” venue. This could be any venue where one of several defendants reside. In the case of a corporate defendant, the plaintiff may select a venue where the defendant has its headquarters or done “substantial business.” Note that big companies, for example, can therefore be subject to suit in many different places. As such, an experienced personal injury attorney will want to review all of the potential venues and select one that he or she believes matches up best with each particular case.
Do they teach this particular brand of strategizing in law school? Not really. But, the ability to pick and choose the right venue could make a huge difference in the outcome. In recent years, our office has spent a great deal of time in cases fighting for the venue which we thought best. In the end, this has paid off with both better settlements and higher verdicts.