Virginia Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules
by Jeffrey J. Downey, Esq
After you or someone you know sustained injuries in Fairfax, VA, due to someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensatory damages to help you pay for your hospital bills and other damages, like pain and suffering.
The Virginia justice system allows you to receive monetary damages for pain and suffering, hospital bills, lost income, and other damages due to the at-fault party’s carelessness. Now that the General District Court limit has reached $50,000, you can file your case in General District Court and get a quick trial date without going through a jury trial. For more information on General District Court, check out this link. (https://www.jeffdowney.com/virginia-increases-the-limit-of-general-district-court-to-50000/)
Understanding Personal Injury Law
Also known as tort law, personal injury law rights wrongs caused by other parties. In Virginia, a tort means an omission or act that causes harm to you. In General District Court, the judge has the authority to determine liability, typically applying the laws of negligence. Under personal injury law, negligence refers to carelessness or failure to use proper care. If you file a case in Circuit Court, where the jurisdictional limit is above $50,000, a jury will decide your case.
The law requires you to prove negligence by showing that:
- The at-fault party owed you the duty of care.
- The at-fault party breached the duty of care
- You sustained injuries or damages as a proximate cause of the negligence
In automobile accidents, Virginia’s highway laws and statutes will help set the duty of care, explains Fairfax Personal injury attorney Jeffrey Downey.
What happens when you get into an accident with a vehicle that is parked or unattended. In those situations, Va Code 46.2-896 defines your duties of care.
- 46.2-896. Duties of driver in event of accident involving damage only to unattended property.
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident in which no person is killed or injured, but in which an unattended vehicle or other unattended property is damaged, shall make a reasonable effort to find the owner or custodian of such property and shall report to the owner or custodian the information which the driver is required to report pursuant to § 46.2-894 if such owner or custodian is found. If the owner or custodian of such damaged vehicle or property cannot be found, the driver shall leave a note or other sufficient information including driver identification and contact information in a conspicuous place at the scene of the accident and shall report the accident in writing within 24 hours to the State Police or the local law-enforcement agency. Such note or other information and written report shall contain the information that the driver is required to report pursuant to § 46.2-894. The written report shall, in addition, state the date, time, and place of the accident and the driver’s description of the property damage.
Where, because of injuries sustained in the accident, the driver is prevented from complying with the foregoing provisions of this section, the driver shall, as soon as reasonably possible, make the required report to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency and make a reasonable effort to locate the owner or custodian of the unattended vehicle or property and report to him the information required by § 46.2-894.
While proving negligence after your accident is simple, for example, showing the at-fault party caused a car crash due to drunk driving, insurance firms could try to sabotage your case by casting doubts on your damages. Because of this, you should hire an experienced Fairfax personal injury attorney to handle insurance adjusters and if necessary, file your case in court. Jeffrey Downey has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury matters and started his career defendant insurance companies. Now he uses that experience to benefit his clients.
Cases that Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers Handle
- Slip and fall incidents
- Premises liability
- Wrongful death
- Medical malpractice
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Trucking accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Animal attacks, dog bites
- Nursing home abuse
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Like other states, Virginia has a statute limitations for filing claims and lawsuits. In Virginia, you have up to two years to file your injury claims. The period begins the instant you are involved in the accident. If you miss the deadline, you cannot receive compensation after filing your case, unless you were a minor or suffering from mental incapacity.
Personal Injury Claims Against the Government in Fairfax, Virginia
You must follow special procedural rules when suing a Virginia government entity. First, you are required to notify the government about your claim before you can file a lawsuit. Your personal injury lawyer could help you submit a formal notice to the local or state government in writing. The notice details important facts about your case, for example, the accident location and date.
According to Virginia law, you must send your notice within six months from the accident date if you want to sue a town or city. If you want to sue Virginia state or the transportation district, you must send the notice within one year after your accident.
Damage Caps on Injury Cases in Virginia
Virginia law does not impose caps for most personal injury cases. That means the state does not limit the compensatory damages you can receive. However, the state has two exceptions, including:
- The law caps compensation for medical malpractices at $2.2 million (this cap changes every year)
- The law caps punitive damages at $350,000.
Recovery is typically limited by Insurance
While Virginia has no caps on damages, your recovery will likely be limited by applicable insurance. Insurance generally follows the vehicle that caused the accident, with the exception of UIM or Uninsured Motorist Coverage. As many people do not carry enough insurance, its always a wise idea to have large UIM limits for yourself, at least $500,000.
Virginia’s Harsh Rule on Shared Fault/Contributory Negligence
Virginia uses the contributory negligence law when you are partly to blame for the injuries you incurred in your accident. You cannot recover any damages if you are partly to blame for the accident. Before pursuing your case, talk to your attorney for legal counsel to know if the harsh law could apply to your lawsuit.
One Bite Rule and Dog Bite Injury Liability
In Virginia, a dog owner is held responsible for the harm their dog or other pet causes you. You must prove that the pet owner knew the animal could bite and did not take reasonable precautions to avoid the incident.
Since Virginia law is complex, it is wise to retain a personal injury lawyer’s services soon after you are injured. You need to recuperate, focus on getting your life back on track, and place your case in your attorney’s hands.
The author, Jeffrey Downey, is a trial lawyer handling cases in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
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