No matter how responsible of a person you are, if you are the victim of another’s negligence or recklessness, you could suffer a serious injury. If you do, knowing what your rights are and what steps to take to recover damages is critical. As you think about filing a personal injury claim, consider these four laws related to the personal injury claims process in Virginia-
Pure Contributory Negligence Law
Each state has different laws on the books related to how negligence is shared in a personal injury claim. For example, in some states, a party who is partially negligent for the harm they suffer can still recover damages, regardless of their degree of fault; in other states, recovery is possible, but only if the degree of fault of the plaintiff is less than the degree of fault of the defendant. And in a very small handful of states, including Virginia, a very harsh rule regarding fault applies: pure contributory negligence. In a pure contributory negligence jurisdiction, a claimant cannot recover damages if they contributed to their injuries or accident in any way, even if that degree of fault is only a single percent. This means that unless you can prove that the defendant was 100 percent to blame for your damages, you cannot recover damages.
Statute of Limitations
The second important law that will have a direct effect on your ability to file a personal injury lawsuit in Virginia is the statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a legal limit on how much time you have to bring forth a lawsuit. In Virginia, the statute of limitations is two years in a personal injury suit. The clock on the statute of limitations starts running from the date that the accident occurs. The only exception to this is usually housed under the “discovery rule,” which holds that the clock on the statute of limitations actually begins from the date that you discover your injury. For example, if you undergo a surgery and discovery one year later that the surgeon left a piece of medical equipment within you, then you will have two years from the date of discovery to bring forth your lawsuit.
Caps on Damages Recoverable
Most types of personal injury damages are not capped. This means that you can recover compensation for the full extent of economic and noneconomic damages you have suffered, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, there are two exceptions: punitive damages and medical malpractice damages are capped.
Punitive damages are damages that are designed to punish the defendant for their egregious actions rather than compensate the victim. In personal injury claims in Virginia, punitive damages are capped at $350,000, without exception.
Damages in a medical malpractice case are also capped. The value of the amount that is recoverable depends on when the act of malpractice occurs. Likely most relevant for those who are facing medical malpractice claims today is a medical malpractice damages cap of $2.4 million (for acts of medical malpractice occurring from July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020).
Cause of Action to Bring Forth a Suit
Finally, before you can even file a personal injury lawsuit, you must be sure that you have a cause of action. While the statutes of Virginia do not explicitly address when a personal injury cause of action exists, there are clues provided by Virginia’s wrongful death statute. The wrongful death statute reads that a cause of action for a wrongful death exists when a person’s death is the result of another’s “wrongful act, neglect, or default,” and further continues to read “and the act, neglect, or default” would have entitled to party to pursue a personal injury action had death not ensued.
In other words, if your injuries are the result of another’s negligence, wrongful act, or default, you have a cause of action for a personal injury suit.
Call Our Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If you have been injured and need to recover monetary compensation to pay for the harm you’ve suffered, it’s important that you have a developed understanding of the rules and regulations surrounding your right to file a personal injury claim. At the office of Breit Law PC, our personal injury attorneys in Virginia can assist you. We work on a contingency fee basis, and always offer free consultations. You can schedule your free case review with our team by calling our law office directly or sending us a message at your convenience.