Do You Know Who Actually Caused Your Car Accident?
It is important to conduct a proper investigation following a car accident to ascertain all of the parties that may be legally responsible. This can be especially difficult if there are multiple vehicles and drivers involved, or if the at-fault driver left the scene before they could be questioned. In some cases, it may be weeks or months before the responsible parties are identified and located.
TN Court Allows Defense More Time to Identify “John Doe” Who Allegedly Caused Pedestrian Accident
How can such delays affect a personal injury lawsuit? A recent decision from the Tennessee Court of Appeals offers a useful illustration. This case started simply enough when the plaintiff was hit by a truck outside of a gas station in Memphis. Several months later, the plaintiff sued the driver and owner of the truck he believed was responsible for his injuries.
But nearly three years after the accident occurred, the defendants learned that another company’s truck and driver may have actually been responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. This came about after the defense learned there was 911 call made from the scene of the accident. A public records request to the City of Memphis uncovered the number, but not the name, of the 911 caller. The defense eventually tracked down the caller and deposed him.
This new witness identified a third party as the owner of the truck that struck the plaintiff. The defendants moved to bring an affirmative defense citing the third party’s comparative fault, while the plaintiff amended his lawsuit to name the third-party company and its unknown truck driver–i.e., a “John Doe”–as co-defendants. The third party then moved to strike the affirmative defense and dismiss it from the lawsuit.
The trial court sided with the third party, largely on the grounds that “John Doe” had not been identified “to a degree sufficient” to allow proper service against him. But the Court of Appeals said the trial judge’s ruling was “premature.” The appellate court noted the defense was never given a proper chance to “conduct pre-trial discovery” of the third party in order to learn John Doe’s identity. Given that the defense exercised its due diligence in investigating the 911 call and learning the third party’s identity, the Court of Appeals said it was an abuse of discretion for the trial judge not to allow for more time to figure how who John Doe is.
Do Not Delay Following a Car Accident
The trial judge in the case above was apparently frustrated that litigation had been pending for nearly two years old–and was on the cusp of trial–when the defense discovered the 911 call. Such delays are obviously not good for any of the parties concerned. This again emphasizes the need to conduct a timely and complete investigation of an accident, ideally before a lawsuit is even filed. If you have been involved in an accident and need legal advice on how to proceed from a qualified Clinton personal injury lawyer, contact the offices of Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, at 866-862-4855 today.