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Can You Sue Someone Who Doesn’t Exist?

When you a lawsuit in court, like a personal injury lawsuit after being in a car accident that was not your fault, you will usually name someone as the defendant. After all, how can you sue someone you can’t identify and, therefore, basically doesn’t exist? As it turns out, you can, and it might be more common than you realize.

If the person who caused your injury “doesn’t exist” because you haven’t identified them yet, then you might have the option to file against “John Doe” in what is appropriately named a John Doe lawsuit. When you name the defendant as John Doe, you are essentially stating that you don’t know who the defendant actually should be, but you know that someone owes you compensation for your damages.

If the person who caused your accident is later identified, then you can amend your complaint with the court to put their name instead of John Doe. For example, if you are in a hit-and-run accident, you might file your complaint against John Doe while the police investigate to find who hit you. If the driver is caught and arrested, then you can change John Doe to their name.

Why Would You File a John Doe Lawsuit?

The main reason to file a John Doe lawsuit is to create an official complaint with the court before any statute of limitations expires. If you are waiting for the person responsible for your damages to be identified, then you could run the risk of waiting out the statute of limitations, which means you can’t file against them for a recovery anymore. But if you file a John Doe lawsuit before that statute of limitations expires, then you will have a placeholder case to work with. Basically, John Doe complaints are a clever way of extending statutes of limitations for cases, not just personal injury cases.

The catch is that you can’t always file a John Doe complaint. Courts have to approve of them. While most do without much hassle, some will ask for more details about why you think the John Doe complaint is justified. To give yourself a fair chance with your John Doe complaint and any lawsuit that follows, you should always work with an attorney.

The Law Offices of Wax & Wax offer legal representation for injured clients throughout Glendale and Santa Clarita. Contact us now if you need help with a case, including those filed against a “John Doe.”