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Who is John Doe?

You have just been in an accident. Another car negligently ran you off the road and fled the scene. There may be witnesses but no one got the license number of the car and no one knows who the driver was. You are injured and now there’s nothing you can do is there? As a matter of fact there is. If you were injured by a “phantom” driver, you can bring a claim against John Doe and your own uninsured motorist coverage will pay for your damages. Even if you were a pedestrian or you were on a bicycle, and you are injured by a phantom vehicle, you can make a John Doe claim. John Doe claims are specifically provided for under Virginia law. If there was no contact between you or your car and the phantom car, you must either promptly report the accident to the Police or your insurance company. If you were injured and cannot report the accident promptly, then you must do so as soon as is reasonably practicable. Every automobile insurance policy has uninsured motorist coverage. That coverage not only applies to injuries caused by known drivers who don’t have liability insurance but it also applies to John Doe cases. Hit and run accidents occur all the time. Sometimes the perpetrator is caught, but many times they are not. Review your automobile insurance policy to see what your uninsured motorist coverage limits are. Your uninsured motorist coverage limits are usually the same as your liability coverage limits. If they are not, think about raising those limits to the highest coverages available. You do not want to be seriously injured by a phantom vehicle and have minimal coverage to compensate you for those injuries.

A John Doe claim is brought the same way as a claim against a known driver. If a law suit has to be filed against a John Doe driver, the lawsuit must be brought within the same statute of limitations as a known driver. The lawsuit will be served on your own insurance company and your insurance company will hire defense counsel to defend John Doe. If the identity of the phantom driver becomes known, the lawsuit can be amended to substitute the known driver in place of John Doe, or to add the known driver to the suit against John Doe if there is a question of identity. If necessary, the case may have to go to trial. The Law Firm of Weiner, Spivey & Miller has extensive experience with John Doe claims and lawsuits. Do not let your injuries go uncompensated just because you don’t know the identity of the negligent driver. You paid premiums for your coverages and you have insurance for a reason. Call Weiner, Spivey & Miller for advice any time you have been a victim of a negligent driver.

By: Eugene C. Miller, Esq.

Maura Weiner