What Does “Standing to Sue” Mean?

March 8th, 2021

Before you can file a lawsuit in a federal court, you must first have “standing.” But what does this mean?

“Standing to sue” is the legal concept, based on Article III of the U.S. Constitution (which is why it’s sometimes called “Article III Standing”), that describes whether or not a person meets certain requirements to file a civil lawsuit.

For example, if you are injured in a car accident and need compensation, you have standing to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. However, if your best friend is injured in a car accident, but is reluctant to file a lawsuit, you do not have standing to file one on their behalf.

What Is Required to Have Standing to Sue?

The three main requirements to have standing are:

  1. You must have suffered an actual injury. Hypothetical injuries, as in “I was incredibly lucky not to have been injured,” or imminent injuries, as in “it’s only a matter of time before this hazard or defective product injures me,” do not constitute standing.
  2. You must be able to prove your injury was caused by negligence. Essentially, your injury has to be someone’s fault. If you’re injured after another vehicle crashes into yours, it’s easy to point to the other driver’s negligence. But if you’re injured because your car fell into a sudden sinkhole or because a tree fell and landed on it in a storm, it’s a lot harder to prove who, if anyone, is at fault.
  3. Your injury must be redressable. This essentially means there must be a way to compensate you for your injury, usually by paying you for accident-related expenses like medical bills. That’s one reason why it’s hard to win a personal injury lawsuit if you never got medical treatment for your injury.

A lot of these concepts are also the same as the ones that will determine whether or not you have a successful claim. But just because you have “standing” doesn’t mean you are going to automatically win your claim, either. It just means you have justification to go in front of a judge or jury to have your claim heard.

It’s important to note that Article III Standing applies to federal court, and not state court. State courts are usually a bit more lax on standing requirements. However, it is best to make sure you can meet federal standing even if you only intend to go through state court. This is because if you win your claim, but the defendant appeals the verdict and wants to bring the case up to a higher court, you may get your case thrown out and verdict overturned because you don’t meet standing requirements.

Do I Ever Have Standing to Sue When I’m Not the One Injured?

There are a limited number of exceptions when you can file a lawsuit on someone else’s behalf.

If the injured party is your dependent, such as your child or an intellectually disabled adult who you have guardianship over, then you can sue on their behalf.

In cases of wrongful death, the deceased victim can obviously not file on their own behalf, so in those cases, family members can file a claim on behalf of the deceased. However, in most circumstances, only the spouse or children can file a claim. If there are no surviving spouses or children, it can be opened up to specific other family members, but it’s best to speak to a wrongful death attorney about how to proceed in those circumstances.

Do You Have Standing to Sue? Get a Free Case Evaluation to Find Out!

At Dudley DeBosier, we want all our clients to understand what is going on with their claim, what may happen throughout the course of their claim, and feel comfortable with how our attorneys are proceeding, which is why we offer free, no-obligation case evaluations, where we go over the details of your claim with you, including your standing to sue.

Contact us today to request your free case evaluation.