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Plaintiff Permitted to File New Complaint After Misidentifying Defendant in Virginia Car Accident Lawsuit

A Virginia appellate court recently issued an opinion addressing whether a plaintiff’s misidentification of a defendant was a “misnomer” or “misjoinder.” The case illustrates the importance of a thorough investigation when pursuing any type of Virginia personal injury claim.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle when it was hit by another car after sunset on Christmas Eve in 2016. The record indicates that the other driver ran a red light while making a left turn and hit the vehicle carrying the plaintiff. Approximately two years after the accident, the plaintiff filed a complaint against the other vehicle’s driver. The plaintiff alleged that the driver was negligent in several ways, including failing to keep a proper lookout, maintaining his vehicle, applying his brakes, and obeying traffic signals. The complaint focused on the negligent operation of the other vehicle, and no cause of action against the owner of the car that was carrying the plaintiff.

The plaintiff’s complaint identified the vehicle’s driver as the vehicle’s owner, when, in fact, the owner’s son was driving the car at the time of the accident. The plaintiff misidentified the driver because the police report reflected that the father was charged with violating traffic codes. The plaintiff amended the complaint to reflect the correct driver, after that driver’s insurer notified him of the misidentification. In response, the defendant filed a plea arguing that the new complaint was time-barred. The lower court ruled that the misidentification was a misjoinder, not a misnomer, therefore ruling that the statute of limitations barred the complaint.

Under Virginia law, a misnomer is a mistake in the name, not the identification of a party. Misnomers occur when a plaintiff correctly identifies the responsible parties but incorrectly names the party. In contrast, a misjoinder occurs when the plaintiff identifies a person that was not the person against whom the action could or was intended to be brought. The distinction usually involves determining whether the incorrectly identified individual is the correct party who has been sufficiently identified.

In this case, the defendant argued that the misidentification was a misjoinder because the person the plaintiff identified exists and was one of the owners. The plaintiff argued that the incorrect name was a misnomer because the complaint, as a whole, contained sufficient allegations to identify the appropriate party even though he used an incorrect name. The court found that as soon as the plaintiff discovered that the driver’s name was wrong in the police report, he promptly filed a new complaint. Therefore, the court ultimately found that the misidentification was a mere misnomer and not barred by the statute of limitations.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Virginia Car Accident?

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Virginia car accident, contact the experienced attorneys at Robinson Law, PLLC. The attorneys at our law firm possess the skills, experience, and resources to advocate for injury victims successfully. Virginia personal injury cases are rarely straight forward and require adept attorneys to overcome the various challenges these cases present. We have represented clients in their claims stemming from motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, and defective products. Contact our office at 703-649-4500 to schedule a free consultation to discuss whether you are entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries and damages.

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