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Three things to know if you’re injured in Virginia

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Personal Injury

Whether you were injured in a car crash, struck by a motor vehicle while crossing a street, or fell and was injured due to an inherently dangerous condition created by a business, you may be facing significant financial, physical, and emotional hardships.  As common sense tells us, it’s wholly appropriate that the party or parties responsible for your injuries compensate you for your losses. Before you act, however, there are three important things you need to know.

1. Virginia has some of the strictest negligence laws in the nation:

In the vast majority of states, the “comparative negligence” doctrine applies to personal injury claims.   This doctrine essentially allows the trier of fact to compare the fault of each party involved in an accident when a personal injury claim is made. Broadly speaking, this comparative weighing of fault allows juries to fairly divide and allocate liability for an injury according to each party’s respective share of fault.

Virginia uses a legal doctrine that has (rightly) fallen out of favor in most states.  It is called the “contributory negligence” doctrine, and it essentially holds that if an injury victim is found to have been at fault, even 1% at fault, in causing his  injuries, he  cannot obtain compensation from the defendant.  This doctrine often results in grossly unjust outcomes for individuals who can be left permanently disabled yet unable to collect a penny from a wildly reckless driver.  For this reason and others, injury victims in Virginia should carefully consider whether to speak to insurance company representatives on their own, without counsel, shortly after being injured.   Even something that seems harmless can be twisted into “proof” of an injury victim’s contributory negligence.  A misspoken word can jeopardize your meritorious claim.  In light of these realities, it is important that when you are injured in the Commonwealth, you promptly speak with an experienced lawyer who can properly guide you, accurately  covey salient facts, and argue the law compellingly on your behalf.

2. You only have a limited amount of time to act:

While there are several important exceptions too numerous to list, speaking generally, the statute of limitation in Virginia for most personal injury claims is two (2) years from the date of your injury. That means you generally have two years in which to settle your claim OR file a lawsuit against the parties responsible for your injuries.  If you sleep on your rights, your claim will become forever time barred.

Do not wait to seek legal guidance. Not only can timely legal representation help insulate you from miscommunications and/or attempts by insurance company agents to tape record rapid question and answer conversations in the hope of devaluing your claim later, but early legal representation can properly obtain and preserve time-sensitive evidence that can otherwise be lost, evidence like video footage, dash camera data, black box date, or 911 calls audio recordings

3. The time you have to act may be shorter than you think:

Among the many exceptions to the general two-year statute of limitations rule in Virginia for personal injury claims is the statute of limitations for defamation claims which is only one (1) year.

In addition, if you have a personal injury or wrongful death claim against the Commonwealth of Virginia, its agencies, and/or its employees for negligence, the Virginia Tort Claims Act (“VTCA”) requires that any claims against the Commonwealth, its agencies, and/or its employees shall be barred UNLESS you or your  attorney sends a detailed written statement of the nature of your claim with certain designated state officials within one (1) year after the cause of action accrues.  This written statement must include the time and place at which the injury is alleged to have occurred and the agency or agencies alleged to be responsible. The full text of the VTCA’s requirements can be found in Code of Virginia §8.01-195.6.

Finally, if you have a personal injury or wrongful death claim due to the negligence of a city, town, or county, Code of Virginia §15.2-209 has a similar written notice requirement.  In these cases, your claims against the city, town, or county shall be barred UNLESS you or your attorney sends a detailed written statement of the nature of the claim with certain designated officials within six (6) months of the date of the incident.

All these requirements and deadlines are traps for the unwary, and they can deprive a deserving individual of the right to prosecute a valuable and meritorious personal injury claim.  Don’t let this happen!   Consult with Charnoff Simpson, PLLC promptly.  We have the experience, skill, and drive to preserve your claim and prosecute your personal injury case zealously.