I talk to quite a few personal injury lawyers, and many of them have this innate push-back to filing cases in federal court, as opposed to state court. However, this fear is largely misplaced, and does a disservice to the client.
I. How do I get into federal court?
The easiest way to get into federal court is to have three things:
1) Diversity of parties (someone is from Florida, another person/company is from another state)
2) Amount in controversy (claim is over $75,000)
3) Injury happened in Florida
When it comes to Cruise Ship Claims, most cruise ship companies have in their ticket contracts a choice of venue and forum clause where if you boarded the cruise ship, you can only sue in a particular place (usually it is federal court).
II. Why is it a benefit to file in federal court?
Federal court saves a lot of time for the lawyers, as you get to move your case relatively quickly. You get a joint scheduling plan where the lawyers on all sides meet and talk and discuss a timeline for the case, as well as any foreseeable discovery issues.
More time saving comes from the ability to have simple motions decided on the papers, without a hearing, unless one is specifically requested. There is nothing a lawyer hates more than arguing ridiculous motions to compel discovery, or getting insurance companies to give you exactly what you want.
Not only can these issues be decided simply by filing a motion without having to coordinate a date and time to argue it (which sometimes can be difficult), but a lawyer with a larger case load can save time by only requesting hearing on issues that are truly important.
III. Judges are more stringent
This is both a good and a bad thing. Sometimes, you want a judge to be more lenient, and sometimes you want the judge to follow the letter of the law to the final punctuation mark. In personal injury cases, the law is typically on the side of the Plaintiff. For example, many companies ignore Waiver of Service Requests. In Florida, ignoring that gives you the right to collect costs, which could be negligible.
In federal court, you are entitled to costs and fees. This means that if companies or people that you are suing do not waive your request, you get attorneys fees and costs. Nothing feels better than coming right out the door and, without doing much work, getting a court order saying that the defendant has to pay your attorney's fees for failing to waive service of process.
IV. End Result
Filing cases in Federal Court does not cost any more, and gives the Plaintiff many benefits. Clients should be advised of such benefits. It is extremely important to find a lawyer that does not simply go the easy route, but the most effective one. In many situations, federal court is the most effective route.