Court Upholds Personal Injury Plaintiffs’ Decision to File Case in “Home County” of Hit-and-Run Driver

Maryland hit-and-run accidents present a number of legal questions. Most often, these questions are answered by the courts after an accident victim files a claim against their own insurance company that is subsequently denied. Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a car accident case involving two defendants:  a hit-and-run driver listed only as “John Doe,” as well as the named defendant. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff’s choice of venue was proper, given the fact that neither the plaintiff nor the named defendant lived in the county where the case was filed.

Car AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were traveling on a Georgia highway when an unknown motorist entered their lane of travel, causing them to slow down in order to avoid a collision. As the plaintiffs’ vehicle slowed, the defendant’s vehicle crashed into the back of the plaintiffs’ vehicle. The vehicle that cut the plaintiffs off drove off without stopping and was never located.

The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant who had struck their car as well as the hit-and-run driver who caused them to slow down in the first place. The plaintiffs’ claim against the defendant was that he was following too closely at the time. The case was filed in the county where the accident occurred.

Prior to trial, the only named defendant asked the court to transfer the case to his home county, arguing that there was no reason for the case to be heard in the county where the collision occurred, since neither the plaintiff nor the defendant was from that county. The court denied the defendant’s motion, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the defendant’s argument was again rejected. The appellate court held that, under state law, venue is proper in either of the parties’ home counties. Another state law specifies that, in the case of hit-and-run accidents, the hit-and-run driver is assumed to be a resident of the county where the accident occurred. Thus, the court concluded that since the hit-and-run driver – although unnamed – was listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, the driver’s “home county” was a proper venue for the plaintiff’s lawsuit.

The defendant argued that the hit-and-run driver should be considered a nominal party because he was unable to be identified and that requiring the defendant to litigate in the non-present driver’s “home county” did not make sense. However, the court held that the statutory language was clear, and it rejected the defendant’s request to transfer the case to his home county.

Venue Selection in Maryland Personal Injury Cases

In Maryland, a plaintiff generally has some level of choice in where to file a lawsuit. Generally speaking, a plaintiff may choose to file a case in the county of residence of any of the named defendants. In cases of multiple defendants, the case can be filed where any one of the defendants resides.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the Maryland law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience assisting clients in a wide range of car accident cases, including hit-and-run cases. To learn more about Maryland car accident laws, and to discuss your case with an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

NTSB Issues Report Regarding Last Year’s Fatal Auto-Pilot Crash, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published June 23, 2017.

Court Allows Evidence of “Other Similar Incidents” in Recent Product Liability Car Accident Case, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published July 11, 2017.

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