Federal Civil Motor Vehicle Lawsuits Continue to Grow

The latest available data from the federal courts show that during August 2019 the government reported 464 new lawsuits filed classed as "motor vehicle" civil filings. The volume of these cases has been steadily rising over the past five years. Overall, the data show that civil filings of this type are up 36.6 percent from levels reported in August 2014. See Table 1.

Table 1. Motor Vehicle Civil Filings
Number Latest Month 464
Percent Change from 1 year ago 7.20%
Percent Change from 5 years ago 36.60%

This litigation involves such matters as personal injury and wrongful death, claims over auto negligence, and other types of tort claims. These cases frequently come before federal rather than state courts because the parties are in different jurisdictions. The long term trend in motor vehicle civil filings for these matters going back five years is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of motor vehicle civil filings of this type recorded each month. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. One-year and five-year change comparisons are based upon the moving averages.

Figure 1. Motor Vehicle Civil Filings Over the Last Five Years
(Click for larger image)

The comparisons of the number of civil filings for motor vehicle-related suits are based on case-by-case court records which were compiled and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

Relative to population, the volume of civil matters of this type filed in federal district courts during August 2019 was 1.4 per every million persons in the United States. Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of motor vehicle civil filings in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.

The three districts which relative to their population had the highest number of these cases involving motor vehicle litigation filed were the three federal judicial districts in Louisiana. Relative to their population, both the Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans) and the Middle District of Louisiana (Baton Rouge) thus far in FY 2019 have each had ten times the national average. The Western District of Louisiana (Shreveport) has been in third place with more than four times the national average.

Table 2 shows the top ten federal judicial districts having the greatest volume of these cases relative to their respective populations during August 2019.

Table 2. Top Ten Districts (per one million people)
Judicial District Percapita Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago
La, M 16.8 14 1 2 4
La, E 12.4 21 2 1 1
La, W 6.9 15 3 3 17
Ark, E 5.5 9 4 21 29
Okla, E 5.3 4 5 7 14
Ill, S 4.8 6 6 35 -
S Dakota 4.7 4 7 8 16
Nevada 4 12 8 19 23
N. Y., S 4 21 9 11 8
Penn, M 3.8 12 10 30 27
  • The Middle District of Louisiana - with 16.8 civil filings as compared with 1.4 civil filings per one million people in the United States - was the most active during August 2019.

  • The Eastern District of Louisiana ranked second. The Eastern District of Louisiana was ranked first a year ago in August 2018 as well as five years ago.

  • The Western District of Louisiana now ranks third. The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of motor vehicle civil filings compared to one year ago - 200 percent - was Southern District of Illinois (East St. Louis). Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth - 348.9 percent - was Eastern District of Arkansas (Little Rock).

Each month, TRAC offers a free report focused on one area of civil litigation in the U.S. district courts. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports by district, office, nature of suit or federal jurisdiction via the TRAC Data Interpreter.