Virginia Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules
Learn about personal injury fault and liability rules, damage caps, the statute of limitations, and more in Virginia.
If you are a Virginia resident who is involved in an injury-related insurance claim or court-based lawsuit, you may be wondering what state laws might affect your case. In this article we'll provide an overview of a few key Virginia personal injury laws.
Time Limits for Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
All states have statutes of limitations, which are time limits for filing lawsuits. They differ by state and according to area of law. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case is two years. The clock on this deadline usually starts running on the date of your accident.
It's crucial to make sure you get your personal injury lawsuit filed in Virginia's civil court system before the two-year window closes. If you miss the deadline and try to file your lawsuit later, the court will almost certainly throw out your case as time-barred.
Injury Claims Against the Government in Virginia
If your lawsuit is against a government entity in Virginia, special procedural rules apply. Before you will be permitted to file a lawsuit, you must first put the government on notice of your claim. You or your attorney will do this by submitting a formal notice to the government (state or local) in writing, setting forth basic details of the accident such as the date and place where it occurred.
For claims against a city or town in Virginia, your notice must be sent within six months of the date of the accident. If the claim is against the Virginia state government or transportation district, your notice must be sent within one year of the accident.
After the government has a chance to respond to your claim by accepting it and trying to settle, or by refusing it, in most cases you will then be permitted to file a lawsuit in court.
Damage Caps on Injury Cases in Virginia
In Virginia, there are no caps on most standard personal injury cases, meaning that the amount of economic and non-economic damages you can receive is not limited under state law, in most instances.
There are two key exceptions. First, damages in medical malpractice cases are capped at $2 million in Virginia. And second, punitive damages, are capped at $350,000. (Note: Punitive damages do not come into play in most injury cases because they require proof of serious recklessness or malicious conduct far exceeding ordinary negligence.
Beware of Virginia's Harsh Rule on Shared Fault
One very important consideration as you pursue your claim is that Virginia is one of the few remaining states that still uses the law of contributory negligence when an injured person is found to share some level of blame for the accident in which they were hurt.
Most states have some type of comparative negligence law, which simply means that a damage award will be adjusted to account for a plaintiff's percentage of fault.
However, in Virginia, the old law of contributory negligence applies. Unfortunately, this means that even if you only have a small percentage of fault, such as 10%, or even just 1%, you will not be able to recover anything at all from other at-fault parties. This doesn't mean that you should not try to pursue your case; it is just something to consider based on the facts of your case. Your attorney can advise you about whether this harsh law will play a role in your case.
Owner Liability For Injury by a Dog or Other Animal
There is no specific statute in Virginia governing personal injury liability for dog bites. Owners will be held liable for injuries caused by their dog (or other animal) if the injured party can show that the owner “should have known” the animal was dangerous. This is known as the “one bite” rule.