In this article, we'll examine a few state laws in Vermont that may affect your personal injury case, whether you are part of a court-based lawsuit or just involved in an insurance claim.
All states set limits on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in court after you've suffered some kind of wrong. These deadlines differ, depending on the type of case you file, but these state laws are all generally known as statutes of limitations.
In Vermont, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases gives an injured person three years from the date of the injury or accident to file a lawsuit in the state's civil court system. It's crucial to understand and follow Vermont's three-year time limit. If you try to file your lawsuit after the three-year window has closed, the court will likely refuse to hear the case altogether.
To see the full text of Vermont's statute of limitations in personal injury cases, visit Vermont Statutes Title 12, Part 2, Chapter 23, Subchapter 2, Section 512.
In some personal injury cases, the person you are trying to hold responsible for your injuries may turn around and argue that you are partly to blame for the underlying accident that caused your injury. If you do share some of the fault, Vermont's comparative fault rule may reduce or eliminate the amount of damages you can collect from others who may be responsible.
Vermont uses a "modified" comparative fault rule in these cases. If you share less than 50 percent of the fault, your total damages award is reduced by an amount that is equal to the percentage of fault assigned to you. If you share 50 percent or more of the fault, however, you cannot collect anything at all from any other at-fault party.
Here's one example. Let's say you are crossing the street outside of a crosswalk when you are hit by a car that is traveling above the posted speed limit. You file a lawsuit over your injuries, and it reaches the trial stage, where the jury decides that you are 30 percent at fault for the accident, and the driver is 70 percent at fault. The jury also adds up all your damages -- medical bills, lost wages, and so on -- and comes to a total of $10,000.
How does your shared fault affect your award? Under Vermont's modified comparative fault rule, your $10,000 total is reduced by $3,000 -- or 30 percent, which matches the share of fault assigned to you. The result is that you will only be able to collect $7,000 from the other at-fault party.
Vermont courts are required to follow the state's comparative fault rule in personal injury trials, and insurance adjusters may bring up the rule during settlement negotiations as well, if fault is at all at issue.
There is no specific statute in Vermont 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.
If your injury was the result of the negligence of a Vermont government agency or an employee of the government, you'll need to follow a different set of rules when it comes to getting compensation for your injuries.
For injuries involving a state-level government agency or employee, you have three years to file a claim (which is different from a lawsuit). The claim needs to be filed on the Vermont General Liability Report of Accident form, and then submitted to the state's Office of Risk Management.
You can learn more about the special rules and procedures that come up in government-related injury cases in our Injury Claims Against the Government section.
You can learn more about Vermont laws that apply to personal injury cases by reading the full text of these laws, straight from the state legislature. You may want to begin with Title 12: Civil Procedure or Title 23: Motor Vehicles for information about vehicle accidents.