Most people filing civil lawsuits know whom they are suing. However, in some situations, there may be multiple potentially responsible parties, or the identity of the party who caused your injuries may not yet be known. If that happens, you can still sue for damages by naming a “John Doe” or “Jane Doe” defendant in your lawsuit.
For example, a victim of medical malpractice in a hospital may not know or remember the names of all treating doctors, nurses, technicians, and anesthesiologists. The patient may have been under anesthesia, asleep or unconscious when preventable medical errors occurred. The hospital may be unwilling to release information until a lawsuit has been filed. Naming “Dr. Doe” defendants allows the victim to move forward in the process of pursuing compensation until the negligent parties can be identified.
Reasons for Naming “Doe” Defendants in Civil Suits
If you have been injured through the negligence of another, you are entitled under the law to pursue compensation for your injuries in a civil claim for damages. Although the process may be easier and faster if all responsible parties can be identified at the outset, there are circumstances in which naming “Doe” defendants may be the best course of action:
- Preventing the statute of limitations from expiring: The law imposes a time limit, known as a “statute of limitations,” in which an injured party must file a lawsuit or be forever barred from bringing a claim for that injury. In Louisiana, the statute of limitations is just one year for most personal injury claims. Naming “Doe” defendants allows you to file a claim and stop the time from running out, even if the responsible parties are not yet identified.
- Multiple potentially responsible parties: Some personal injury cases are more complex than others. Large commercial truck accidents, for example, may involve several different responsible parties — the driver, the trucking company, the owner of the truck, the owner of the trailer, the party leasing the truck or the trailer, the manufacturer of the truck, trailer, or parts, etc. Until the lawsuit is in progress, there may not be sufficient information available to name all responsible parties.
- Using discovery to identify responsible parties: After a lawsuit is filed, the process of discovery enables the victim’s personal injury lawyer to gather the information needed to identify all negligent parties. Under the law, during discovery, defendants are required to answer questions and provide documents as requested by the plaintiff. The information provided can lead to identification of specific parties whose negligence caused or contributed to the victim’s injuries. In a hospital medical malpractice case, for example, discovery can help your attorney determine what preventable medical errors were made and which medical professionals committed those errors.
Legal Help for Personal Injury Victims in New Orleans
If someone else caused your injuries and you’re not sure who was to blame, contact Herman Herman & Katz, LLC for a free case review. Our experienced Louisiana personal injury attorneys can advise you about your legal options, the damages you may be entitled to claim, as well as the estimated value of your case.