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Virginia’s harsh contributory negligence rule

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2024 | Personal Injury |

If you are injured in car accident in Virginia and want to recover compensation through a personal injury action, you may have a harder time than in most other states.

Virginia follows what is known as the contributory negligence rule. This means that if your own negligence contributed in any way to the accident, you are prevented from recovering any compensation.

The elements of negligence

Proving negligence involves four basic elements. You must show that the other driver breached, or failed, in their legal duty to drive safely and as a reasonable person would.

You must then show that their failure to drive safely was the direct cause of your accident. You must present enough evidence to show that the accident would not have happened and you would not have suffered your losses but for their failure.

The final element you must prove is damages. These are the losses you suffered because of the accident. Losses can include medical bills and lost wages.

Most car accident cases are not black and white. They are filled with gray areas involving who or what caused the accident and how much.

Because of this, many states allow personal injury victims to recover compensation in proportion to their own negligence. For example, if you are found to be 50% responsible for the accident, you can only recover 50% of your damages.

What contributory negligence means

However, Virginia’s contributory negligence rule states that you can only recover compensation if you prove the other driver was 100% negligent. If you are found to be even 1% negligent, you could recover nothing at all.

The only exception to this rule is if you are injured on a commo carrier such as a bus or an airplane and the evidence shows the carrier violated a safety code.

This harsh negligence law can majorly impact your personal injury case if you are injured in a car accident. You could lose out on your right to receive any compensation if the other driver can show that you were in some way at fault for the accident.

You should expect the other driver to take advantage of the contributory negligence law in a personal injury action. Putting on an aggressive defense is necessary.

Types of evidence negligence to prove

Collect evidence to support your claim of negligence against the other driver. There are many different types of evidence that you can use, including photographs and videos of the accident scene, witness statements, medical documentation and police reports.

These are common types of evidence. Given that you have so much at stake due to Virginia’s contributory negligence rule, stronger evidence, such as expert reports or opinions, may be necessary to increase your chance of proving your case.

If the other driver accuses you of contributing to the accident, you can use the same types of evidence to tell your side of the story and refute their claims of negligence. Be careful about what you say to police officers at the accident scene, as even minor statements, sch as an apology, could be used against you as evidence of fault.

Although Virginia’s negligence law may make it more challenging to prove negligence, it is not impossible. Acting quickly and being careful about what you say and do after an accident can increase your chance of a successful recovery.