distracted drivingRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important and frequently misunderstood issue that commonly arises in Virginia car accident cases. The case required the court determine whether a plaintiff’s claim against an employer could proceed towards trial despite direct evidence that the employee was not engaged in work-related activities during the accident.

Ultimately, the court concluded that a plaintiff must provide actual evidence to rebut direct evidence to survive a summary judgment challenge and merely questioning the credibility of the defendant’s witness is not sufficient to give rise to a disputed fact.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident that occurred when another motorist struck her vehicle. The other driver was on the phone at the time of the accident, speaking with a friend from work.

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handshakeAccording to the most recent estimates, approximately 95% of civil cases are resolved through pre-trial settlement negotiations. While it may seem that an attorney’s assistance is not necessary with the chances being so high that a case will not make it to trial, the exact opposite is true. Virginia personal injury attorneys are crucial to negotiating favorable settlement offers, and ensuring that the terms of the offer are fair to their client.

A settlement agreement is a contract between the parties. Most often, the agreement is that the plaintiff will withdraw their case against the defendant and in return, the defendant will provide some amount of compensation to the plaintiff. Normally, the amount of compensation provided to the plaintiff is less than it would likely be if the plaintiff were to succeed at trial; however, the plaintiff is provided with the certainty that they will be recovering a given sum for their injuries

Virginia personal injury plaintiffs should take care in executing a settlement agreement because these are binding contracts. A recent case illustrates one potential problem that a plaintiff may face when executing a settlement agreement with some, but not all, of the potentially liable parties.

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park bikingRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a plaintiff’s injuries that were sustained while riding his bike in a public park. The case presents an important issue for Virginia premises liability plaintiffs in that it discusses the concept of recreational-use immunity, which also applies in Virginia.

The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s case should be permitted to proceed against the city that was responsible for maintaining the park, or if the park was entitled to recreational-use immunity. Ultimately, the court determined that the city was entitled to recreational-use immunity because the plaintiff failed to establish that the city knew of the hazard that caused his fall.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff fell off his bike and was seriously injured after striking a pothole while riding on a trail in a public park that was maintained by the defendant city. The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against the city.

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car accidentIn a recent case, a state appellate court denied a plaintiff’s claim against an insurance company based on the fact that the state where the claim arose precluded accident victims from stacking their insurance policies. In that case, the insurance company had approved and paid out on a similar claim filed by the plaintiff a few years earlier. However, the court held that the insurance company’s previous error in paying out on the plaintiff’s claim did not mean that the insurance company was prevented from raising the anti-staking defense in the more recent case.

Had this case been brought in Virginia, the insurance company would not be able to raise the anti-stacking defense because Virginia allows accident victims to stack multiple insurance policies. Stacking allows for accident victims to combine the policy maximums from multiple policies, up to the point where they are able to recover fully for their injuries they sustained.

Without Insurance Policy Stacking

If an accident victim sustained $300,000 in a car accident in a state that does not allow stacking, and the at-fault motorist’s insurance policy has a policy maximum of $100,000, and the plaintiff’s own policy has a maximum of $150,000, the plaintiff will be able to recover the following:

  • $100,000 from the at-fault motorist’s policy, and
  • $50,000 from the accident victim’s policy

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hospital bedIn any Virginia personal injury claim, a plaintiff not only has to prove that the defendant acted with negligence or intent, but also that the plaintiff sustained compensable damages. In some cases, a defendant’s conduct may be so egregious that the plaintiff may be able to recover punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are generally very substantial, as they are designed to deter similar future conduct.

In one recent case, a court upheld an award of punitive damages of over $4 million in a nursing home neglect case. The plaintiffs brought their claims against a nursing facility after three residents died at the facilities in a “vent unit.” The vent unit was designed for ventilator-dependent patients. The plaintiffs claimed that the residents died due to inadequate staffing and a lack of supplies in the vent unit.

The evidence presented indicated that one resident’s breathing apparatus was detached without any alarm going off.  Another resident was found dead with his ventilator and its alarms turned off. The third resident’s tracheostomy tube was not properly replaced after it had been removed by nursing home staff. The plaintiffs claimed that all three deaths were caused by inadequate staffing and a lack of supplies.

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yogaIn a recent personal injury opinion, a state appellate court discussed the duty that a yoga instructor owed to the plaintiff, who was taking a class from the instructor when she was injured as the instructor adjusted her during a pose. The case is important for Virginia personal injury victims because it illustrates the type of analysis a court engages in when evaluating whether a defendant breached a duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff took a yoga class that was taught by the defendant instructor. During the class at several different times, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant instructor made several adjustments to her body that caused her pain. These adjustments included putting a belt around the plaintiff’s waist to pull her hips in line, applying downward pressure on her lower back while in “cow” pose, and twisting her neck to both sides.

At the time, the plaintiff did not tell the defendant that the adjustments were causing her pain, nor did she ask him to stop. Later, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the instructor as well as the yoga studio.

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product liabilityProduct manufactures are required to ensure that the products they release to market are safe for their intended use. This means that when someone is injured due to a dangerous or defective product, they may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Virginia product liability lawsuit.

There are three basic theories under which a Virginia product liability claim can be filed: design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure-to-warn. In some cases, all three claims can be made. The first two types of claims are fairly self-explanatory. However, failure-to-warn claims are a little more complicated. A recent federal appellate case discusses the plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim against a crane manufacturer.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a crane operator working on a job that required he move the bow of a large boat. In order to move the bow, the plaintiff worked with two other operators to perform a tandem lift, where the three cranes would work together to move the bow. Initially, the move went according to plan; however, mid-way through the lift the plaintiff’s crane shifted out of place.

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criminal lawThe determination of whether an insurance company is responsible to defend the at-fault party in a Virginia car accident case is often a critical issue because the at-fault party frequently will not have sufficient assets to fully compensate the plaintiff for the injuries they have sustained. In the event that an accident is covered under an insurance policy, the insurance company will cover the costs of the accident, meaning that the plaintiff will more likely be able to collect should the case be resolved in their favor.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case raising an important insurance issue that frequently arises in Virginia car accident cases. The case required the court to determine if an employer’s insurance policy covered an accident caused by an intoxicated employee.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was traveling for work when he caused a traffic accident that injured the plaintiff. At the time of the accident, the defendant was driving a company owned vehicle, although he was not on the clock at the time and was not performing any work-related activity. It was later determined that the defendant was intoxicated.

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wrong dateFor nearly the first two hundred years of the nation’s history, state and federal governments could not be held liable in a lawsuit brought by a citizen unless the government entity being named as a defendant specifically consented to being sued. In effect, this insulated the government from acts of its employees, leaving those who were injured as a result of a government worker’s negligence without any real means of recourse.

In the mid-20th century that began to change with the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA provided a legal mechanism for those who had been injured due to the negligent or wrongful act of a government employee to seek compensation for their injuries. In the wake of the FTCA, states began to follow, passing their own versions of the law. The Virginia Tort Claims Act was passed in its current form in 1981, and is contained in Virginia Code, Title 8.01 sections 195.1 to 195.12.

In order to bring a lawsuit against a government entity under a tort claims act, the conditions of the act must be followed. In most cases, tort claims acts require plaintiffs to provide adequate notice to the government entity being sued and pursue their case in a timely manner. A plaintiff’s failure to file these rules precisely will almost certainly result in the dismissal of their lawsuit. A recent case illustrates how courts strictly interpret the procedural requirements of tort claims acts.

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When a Virginia personal injury case is classified as a “medical malpractice” case, there are certain requirements that apply to the plaintiff’s case. For example, Virginia medical malpractice plaintiffs are required to submit an expert affidavit supporting their claim, while victims who bring claims of traditional negligence are not required to do so. While it may seem like the distinction between a claim of medical malpractice and a claim of traditional negligence is clear, that is not always the case.Legal News Gavel

In a recent case, the court heard an appeal from a hospital, claiming that the plaintiff’s lawsuit should be dismissed for failing to comply with the filing requirements for medical malpractice cases. The court, however, agreed with the plaintiff that her claims were not based on a theory of medical malpractice. Thus, the court permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a resident at an inpatient psychiatric facility when he was seriously injured after being attacked by another resident. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the facility, arguing that it failed to provide adequate security and to train staff on how to handle emergency situations like the one that resulted in his injuries. Since the plaintiff did not believe his case to be one of medical malpractice, he did not take the additional steps to comply with the state’s medical malpractice requirements. The facility argued that the plaintiff’s case was brought under a theory of medical malpractice and that he should have complied with the additional medical malpractice requirements.

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