Contributory Negligence in Virginia

Knowing about contributory negligence in Virginia could save you a lot of grief when it comes to the long haul of pursuing a personal injury claim.  In the unfortunate event you are ever involved in an accident in Virginia, it will be helpful to know how state laws may apply to your case.  

The laws regarding contributory negligence in Virginia can be confusing and somewhat frustrating for many people without legal representation in this area of practice.

Will you get money for the injuries caused to you or not? How can you tell who was at fault? Will the other party have to pay for the damages they inflicted? How long do you have to decide whether or not to take legal action after the accident? All these questions and more can be answered by seeking legal help immediately after an accident. It is important to take action as soon as possible, as waiting too long may inhibit your ability to make a claim. When you seek legal help, it is important to know some basic things about the laws you are dealing with in Virginia.

Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence

Virginia is one of only a few states with a policy of contributory negligence. Most states practice what is called comparative negligence. Comparative negligence looks at the damage caused by the two parties who are involved in an accident, calculates the percentage that each party was responsible for, and then allows each party to recover based on a pro rata calculation.

Contributory negligence, on the other hand, stands for the proposition that someone must be without fault in order to make a recovery.  In other words, if they are even one percent responsible for an accident that caused them injury, they may be barred from receiving compensation from the other party. Some people think this is unfair, as it is hard to have not contributed in some way, but such is the law in Virginia.

A Virginia personal injury lawyer will be able to go over the details of their client’s case and analyze whether the insurance company or negligent driver they are trying to file a lawsuit against might be able to successfully employ a contributory negligence defense.

Examples of Contributory Negligence

Since Virginia’s law on contributory negligence is not the majority view on the topic, it is important to look at some examples of how it plays out in real life. Here are a few basic situations in which contributory negligence might normally be applied and the parties would theoretically be barred from recovery:

  • Someone was hit by an oncoming car that had strayed over into their lane, but they were driving ten miles an hour over the speed limit
  • Someone was in a car accident with a drunk driver and was injured seriously, but they were not following one of the basic rules of the road
  • Someone was walking across the street and hit by a car, but they failed to look for oncoming traffic before crossing or were crossing outside the rules of a controlled intersection

In all of the above cases, it would most likely be assumed that the person who hit the other was in the wrong to a much larger degree, but according to the contributory negligence theory in Virginia, they may be barred from recovery because of their improper actions or inactions.

Examples of Personal Injury Accidents

Personal injury law is a generic term for any situation when someone is injured by another party in an accident, whether maliciously or by mistake. There are a few common ways that personal injury takes place:

These are just a few of the main situations where personal injury may result. Some of these situations may also involve contributory negligence. For a more detailed explanation, a lawyer in Virginia can help someone find out if their specific injury qualifies for recovery and to what type of damages they may be entitled.

Steps to Take

If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, the best thing to do is to seek legal help right away. In Virginia, you have up to two years after the accident to take action. This is known as the statute of limitations and you should be conscious of this limitation on your ability to seek compensation.

Contact a Virginia personal injury lawyer as soon as possible who has a strong understanding of the contributory negligence doctrine. They will give you the help you need to sort out the accident and to seek the compensation you deserve. If you are considering moving ahead with a personal injury claim outside of Virginia, you can visit the Maryland injury page, or the DC page, for help with a case.