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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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating one of the difficulties that some Virginia slip-and-fall plaintiffs encounter when filing a case against a landowner. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case should proceed to trial despite the fact that she did not offer any direct evidence that the city knew the hazard existed. Finding that the plaintiff’s photographs failed to sufficiently prove that a crack in the sidewalk was so old as to impute knowledge of its existence, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.Legal News Gavel

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was taking a walk to get some exercise along a sidewalk that was maintained by the defendant city. At some point in her walk, the plaintiff tripped and fell on a slab of concrete, breaking her arm. The plaintiff called 911, and the plaintiff’s daughter transported her to the hospital. The next day, the plaintiff met with a police officer and reported her injuries.

Photographs of the sidewalk where the plaintiff fell showed two adjoining concrete slabs, one about 1.5 to 2 inches higher than the other. The plaintiff testified that, while she could not say for sure that she tripped on the raised portion of the concrete slab, she just “knew that her feet hit something.”

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Legal News GavelRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case arising from a slip-and-fall accident occurring in a grocery store. The case is important for anyone who has recently been the victim of a Virginia slip-and-fall accident because it illustrates the concept of the non-delegable duty of a landowner to maintain their property in a safe condition.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff visited the defendant grocery store to buy her breakfast shortly after the store opened. However, as the plaintiff approached aisle 13, she suddenly and unexpectedly slipped in a puddle of soapy water. Evidently, the water had been left by the maintenance worker who had cleaned the store’s floors the night before.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against three parties: the grocery store, the company that the store contracted with to perform all cleaning services, and the individual contractor who did the actual cleaning the day prior to the plaintiff’s fall. Prior to the case going to trial, the plaintiff settled with the individual contractor and the case proceeded to trail against the grocery store and the contracted cleaning company.

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Recently, a state appellate court handed down an opinion in a personal injury case discussing an issue that will be of interest to many Virginia car accident victims. The case required the court to discuss one defendant’s potential liability in a multi-vehicle accident that began with an instance of road rage. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant was not liable based on his reaction to another driver’s road-rage induced erratic driving.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was on a highway on-ramp about to get onto the highway when a driver quickly came up from behind her, passed her, and made an obscene gesture as he did so. The plaintiff changed lanes to get behind the car that had just passed her, and as she did that car slammed on its brakes. To avoid what would have been a certain collision, the plaintiff also slammed on her brakes. The driver behind her did the same.

The defendant was two cars behind the plaintiff. As the vehicle behind the plaintiff applied the brakes, the defendant braked as well. However, because his truck was fully loaded with cargo, he was unable to stop in time and ran into the back of car in front of him. That vehicle was pushed into the plaintiff’s car, injuring the plaintiff.

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Virginia law requires that all driver maintain a certain level of insurance coverage in order to legally drive on the state’s public roads. Indeed, car insurance is very important in the event of a Virginia car accident, especially those that result in serious bodily injury. These accidents often result in significant expenses, including medical bills and lost wages, not to mention the emotional toll that being involved in a serious accident can take.

Legal News GavelIn theory, car insurance should help with these issues by compensating motorists for their injuries. However, in practice, insurance companies often tend to view claims with an eye toward denial or low-ball settlements. This can result in a major headache for accident victims.

Given the realities of insurance coverage, it is important that accident victims do everything they can to comply with all the requirements contained in their policy. A recent case illustrates the difficulties that an accident victim may encounter when filing a claim with an insurance company.

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