Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia car accident case discussing what venues are appropriate in a case brought against multiple motorists, one of which was an uninsured motorist (UIM). The case required the court to determine if the venue-selection clause in the state’s UIM statute applies to cases involving a named defendant in addition to an unknown, “John Doe” defendant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the UIM statute did apply, and affirmed the lower court’s decision to deny the named defendant’s request to transfer venue to his home county.
Georgia’s Uninsured Motorist Statute as Applied to Hit-and-Run Drivers
When a motorist causes an accident, anyone injured as a result of that driver’s negligence can pursue a claim for damages against the driver. However, after a Georgia hit-and-run accident, the injury victim will not be able to file a case against the driver because his identity is unknown.
Thankfully, most Georgia insurance policies contain UIM coverage and a plaintiff can proceed with a case against the hit-and-run driver by naming “John Doe” as a defendant. Under the state’s UIM statute, any “John Doe” driver is deemed to be uninsured and “shall be presumed to be in the county in which the accident causing injury or damages occurred, or in the county of residence of the plaintiff, at the election of the plaintiff in the action.”
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured in a car accident involving a hit-and-run motorist as well as another defendant. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the “John Doe” defendant, as well as the named defendant in the county where the accident occurred.
The named defendant sought to transfer the case to his own home county, arguing that his home county was an appropriate venue because, as a general rule, venue is appropriate in the home county of the defendant.
The court, however, disagreed with the defendant and denied his request to transfer the case. The court explained that under the state’s UIM statute, the “John Doe” defendant’s home venue was either the plaintiff’s home venue or the county where the accident occurred, whichever the plaintiff elected. Thus, in this case, the court explained that there were two defendants, and thus venue was appropriate in either of their home venues.
The defendant argued that the UIM statute should not apply in a case such as this one, where there is a named defendant involved. However, the court determined that there was nothing in the statute precluding its application in this circumstance. Further, the court explained that by allowing the defendant to transfer venue to his home venue, the court would be giving no effect to the UIM statute, which permitted the plaintiff to select between the two provided venues. The court explained that, whenever possible, the court’s job is to interpret potentially conflicting laws in a way to give effect to both.
Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Hit-and-Run Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Georgia hit-and-run accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Georgia personal injury lawyers at the McAleer Law have decades of collective experience assisting injury victims and their families in recovering the compensation they deserve after being involved in a serious car accident. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 404-622-5337 today.
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Georgia Court Affirms Teacher’s Immunity in Recent Wrongful Death Lawsuit, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, March 14, 2018.
Georgia Court Issues Another Opinion Discussing the State’s Recreational-Use Statute, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, May 23, 2018.