Georgia Supreme Court Addresses Unknown Tortfeasors After Car Accident

closeup of white columns outside of court, Georgia Supreme Court Addresses Unknown Tortfeasors After Car Accident

Unfortunately, sometimes after a car accident one of the drivers involved will leave the scene of the accident. That can cause some issues and complications for any court cases that follow from the accident. If you are in a car accident, you should contact a skilled Gwinnett County car accident attorney as soon as possible. As this case illustrates, you still may be able to recover damages under Georgia’s uninsured motorist statute. 

Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Georgia

Under Georgia law, it is a crime to leave the scene of a car accident. Penalties for leaving the scene of an accident differ depending on how serious the damage is and whether there was solely property damage or anyone was injured or killed. If you are caught leaving the scene of an accident, the penalty can often be worse than anything that would have arisen from the accident itself. If you are involved in a car accident, a knowledgeable Georgia personal injury attorney can help inform you of your options.

“John Doe” and Venue 

If you are in a car accident and the other party leaves the scene of the accident, you still may be able to hold them accountable for damages under the Georgia uninsured motorist statute. This happened in a recent case heard by the Georgia Supreme Court. The plaintiffs were driving on the highway when a car swerved into their lane and they had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting it. As the car behind them was following too closely, it collided with the plaintiffs’ car which caused injury.

However, the car that swerved and allegedly caused the accident did not stop. Thus, the injured parties brought suit against the car that rear-ended them and “John Doe” (i.e. the individual in the car that left the scene). The plaintiffs sued both parties under Georgia’s uninsured motorist statute. The uninsured motorist statute states that it is the proper statute to use when the identity of one of the drivers is unknown.

The instant case revolves around where the proper venue is for this case. “Venue” means the specific county that the case is heard in. Georgia’s uninsured motorist statute states that the residence of an unknown driver should be presumed to be the county in which the accident occurred. Based on this part of the statute, the plaintiffs brought suit in Bibb County, where the accident took place.

However, the driver that rear-ended the vehicle moved to change the venue to where he lived, which was Crawford County. Both the lower courts and this court denied the defendant’s motion. They noted that the Georgia Constitution states that venue will usually lie in the county where the defendant lives. The court here explained that the uninsured motorist statute is clear that an unknown defendant’s residence is the county where the accident took place. Therefore, venue was proper in Bibb County and the fact that the driver was unknown is irrelevant; the presumptive county of residence acts just like the county of residence of a known defendant.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today

The experienced car accident attorneys at Scholle Law represent accident victims throughout the greater Atlanta area, including Gwinnett, Fulton, and Cobb Counties. We can help you or a loved one recover the damages that you deserve. Clients only pay us if they recover. Schedule your free consultation today by calling 866-972-5287 or by using the contact form on our website.