Virginia Increases the Limit of General District Court to $50,000
By Jeffrey J. Downey, attorney, serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia
With some recent amendments that took effect on July 1, 2021, the jurisdictional limit for General District Court (GDC) in Virginia has been increased from $25,000 to $50,000. That is good news, explains Fairfax personal injury attorney Jeffrey J. Downey.
Generally, it is much quicker and less expensive to file a personal injury claim in General District Court. Now, whenever you have a personal injury case with a value less than $50,000, you can file it in GDC and get a much quicker trial date.
Some insurance companies like to drag their feet on paying out on insurance claims. When cases are filed in Circuit Court, it can take one to two years to get a jury trial, depending on the jurisdiction and Covid-19 delays. During the pandemic, many civil cases were delayed until state health officials ruled it was safe for juries to return to the courthouse. However, in GDC, a plaintiff can litigate a case without the need for a jury and without the need to pay expensive experts to come to court and testify. GDC also allows the admission of medical records when accompanied with an affidavit, which can save a litigant thousands of dollars in expert costs when taking a case to trial.
One drawback of filing a case in General District Court is that you waive your right to a jury, explains Tysons Corner personal injury lawyer Jeffrey J. Downey. However, that is not always a bad thing as Judges can be more generous than some conservative juries. Juries can sometimes get caught up in discounting a Plaintiff’s case because they think he has health insurance or some other insurance benefit. Judges on the other hand, are trained to ignore these collateral source issues and render a verdict based on the actual damages.
Also, I’ve included for your reference below text of the amended Virginia statute discussed in this article.
If you or a loved one has been injured, contact the Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey for a free consultation. Mr. Downey, who has over 30 years of experience, started his career defending insurance companies in personal injury cases. Now he uses that experience to help maximize the recovery of his clients. He handles a variety of personal injury matters, including auto accidents, truck wrecks, bicycle accidents, motorcycle accidents and premises liability cases. Take a look at what our clients are saying.
The firm handles cases in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC
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- 16.1-77. Civil jurisdiction of general district courts; amending amount of claim.
Except as provided in Article 5 (§ 16.1-122.1 et seq.), each general district court shall have, within the limits of the territory it serves, civil jurisdiction as follows:
(1) Exclusive original jurisdiction of (i) any claim to specific personal property or to any debt, fine or other money, or to damages for breach of contract or for injury done to property, real or personal, when the amount of such claim does not exceed $4,500, exclusive of interest and any attorney fees, and concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts having jurisdiction in such territory of any such claim when the amount thereof exceeds $4,500 but does not exceed $25,000, exclusive of interest and any attorney fees, and (ii) any action for injury to person, regardless of theory, and any action for wrongful death as provided for in Article 5 (§ 8.01-50 et seq.) of Chapter 3 of Title 8.01 when the amount of such claim does not exceed $4,500, exclusive of interest and any attorney fees, and concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts having jurisdiction in such territory of any such claim when the amount thereof exceeds $4,500 but does not exceed $50,000, exclusive of interest and any attorney fees. However, the jurisdictional limit shall not apply with respect to distress warrants under the provisions of § 8.01-130.4, cases involving liquidated damages for violations of vehicle weight limits pursuant to § 46.2-1135, nor cases involving forfeiture of a bond pursuant to § 19.2-143. While a matter is pending in a general district court, upon motion of the plaintiff seeking to increase the amount of the claim, the court shall order transfer of the matter to the circuit court that has jurisdiction over the amended amount of the claim without requiring that the case first be dismissed or that the plaintiff suffer a nonsuit, and the tolling of the applicable statutes of limitations governing the pending matter shall be unaffected by the transfer. Except for good cause shown, no such order of transfer shall issue unless the motion to amend and transfer is made at least 10 days before trial. The plaintiff shall pay filing and other fees as otherwise provided by law to the clerk of the court to which the case is transferred, and such clerk shall process the claim as if it were a new civil action. The plaintiff shall prepare and present the order of transfer to the transferring court for entry, after which time the case shall be removed from the pending docket of the transferring court and the order of transfer placed among its records. The plaintiff shall provide a certified copy of the transfer order to the receiving court.
(2) Jurisdiction to try and decide attachment cases when the amount of the plaintiff’s claim does not exceed $25,000 exclusive of interest and any attorney fees.
(3) Jurisdiction of actions of unlawful entry or detainer as provided in Article 13 (§ 8.01-124 et seq.) of Chapter 3 of Title 8.01, and in Chapter 14 (§ 55.1-1400 et seq.) of Title 55.1, and the maximum jurisdictional limits prescribed in subdivision (1) shall not apply to any claim, counter-claim or cross-claim in an unlawful detainer action that includes a claim for damages sustained or rent against any person obligated on the lease or guarantee of such lease.
(4) Except where otherwise specifically provided, all jurisdiction, power and authority over any civil action or proceeding conferred upon any general district court judge or magistrate under or by virtue of any provisions of the Code.
(5) Jurisdiction to try and decide suits in interpleader involving personal or real property where the amount of money or value of the property is not more than the maximum jurisdictional limits of the general district court. However, the maximum jurisdictional limits prescribed in subdivision (1) shall not apply to any claim, counter-claim, or cross-claim in an interpleader action that is limited to the disposition of an earnest money deposit pursuant to a real estate purchase contract. The action shall be brought in accordance with the procedures for interpleader as set forth in § 8.01-364. However, the general district court shall not have any power to issue injunctions. Actions in interpleader may be brought by either the stakeholder or any of the claimants. The initial pleading shall be either by motion for judgment, by warrant in debt, or by other uniform court form established by the Supreme Court of Virginia. The initial pleading shall briefly set forth the circumstances of the claim and shall name as defendant all parties in interest who are not parties plaintiff.
(6) Jurisdiction to try and decide any cases pursuant to § 2.2-3713 of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.) or § 2.2-3809 of the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act (§ 2.2-3800 et seq.), for writs of mandamus or for injunctions.
(7) Jurisdiction to try and decide any cases pursuant to § 55.1-1819 of the Property Owners’ Association Act (§ 55.1-1800 et seq.) or § 55.1-1959 of the Virginia Condominium Act (§ 55.1-1900 et seq.).
(8) Concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts to submit matters to arbitration pursuant to Chapter 21 (§ 8.01-577 et seq.) of Title 8.01 where the amount in controversy is within the jurisdictional limits of the general district court. Any party that disagrees with an order by a general district court granting an application to compel arbitration may appeal such decision to the circuit court pursuant to § 8.01-581.016.
For purposes of this section, the territory served by a county general district court expressly authorized by statute to be established in a city includes the general district court courtroom.