After a Virginia motor vehicle accident, those who were injured in the collision can pursue a claim for compensation against the parties whom they believe were responsible for causing the accident. In almost all cases, Virginia car accident lawsuits are filed against another motorist and are defended by the motorist’s insurance company. However, Virginia accident victims should not assume that the only liable party is the other driver; it may be that the driver’s employer is also responsible for any injuries.

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a Virginia accident victim can pursue a claim for compensation against a negligent motorist’s employer. To establish such a claim, a plaintiff must show that 1.) there was a “master and servant” relationship between the motorist and the employer, 2.) that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, and 3.) the employee was in the process of carrying out his employer’s business. A recent state appellate decision illustrates the type of scenario where employer liability may be appropriate.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured while he was riding as a passenger in a pick-up truck that was being driven by his father. The accident was allegedly the plaintiff’s father’s fault and occurred while the two were driving to a family reunion. The truck that the plaintiff’s father was driving was provided by his employer, the defendant.

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Virginia is one of only a few states that still applies the common-law doctrine of contributory negligence. Under a contributory negligence analysis, a plaintiff who bears any responsibility for the accident resulting in their injuries is precluded from recovering from any other at-fault party. Thus, in any Virginia personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff who is found to be just 5% at fault for an accident can be barred from recovering for their injuries against a party who was 95% at fault, as an example.

As noted above, most other states have shifted away from the contributory negligence doctrine and implemented a comparative fault rule. Under a comparative fault analysis, an at-fault plaintiff will be permitted to recover for their injuries regardless of their own fault. However, a plaintiff’s total recovery amount will be reduced by their percentage of fault. Some jurisdictions apply a “pure” comparative fault rule, allowing a plaintiff to pursue a claim regardless of their own percentage of fault; however, most states use a “modified” rule, allowing only those plaintiffs to recover who are less than 50% at fault.

Virginia’s contributory negligence law applies in almost all negligence cases, and often leads to relatively harsh results. However, contributory negligence is especially difficult to overcome (although far from impossible) in Virginia premises liability cases. This is because a defendant in a Virginia slip-and-fall case may be able to defeat a plaintiff’s claim by showing they were even the slightest bit at fault. For example, this may be done by arguing that a plaintiff was not looking out where they were going or by not wearing appropriate footwear.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Virginia car accident case discussing the state’s “dead man statute.” The dead man statute, contained in Code of Virginia section 8.01-397, provides guidance on how courts should handle cases where one party is incapacitated or has died since the events giving rise to the case.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff claimed he was injured when he was rear-ended by the defendant. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, but before the case reached trial the defendant died. The plaintiff’s case proceeded against the defendant’s estate.

Evidently, the defendant conceded liability for the accident, and the only issue for the jury to decide was whether the plaintiff was entitled to any damages and, if so, what amount. The plaintiff, who had been involved in several previous car accidents and had a lengthy history of pre-existing medical conditions, testified that the defendant was going at least 20 miles per hour at the time. The plaintiff sought $500,000 in damages, claiming that as a result of the accident she required an additional back surgery.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case requiring the court to determine if a jury’s $3 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff was proper given the evidence presented at trial. After reviewing the evidence as well as the defendants’ specific claims, the court affirmed the judgment. The case is important to Virginia personal injury plaintiffs because it illustrates several issues that frequently arise in Virginia truck accident cases.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving a van with four passengers inside. As the plaintiff approached a construction zone, he noticed that there was a large construction vehicle pulled off to the right side of the road. The plaintiff realized as he got closer that the vehicle was actually in his lane. Thus, the plaintiff crossed over the double-yellow line to overtake the vehicle. However, as the plaintiff was passing it, the vehicle made a sharp left turn, colliding with the plaintiff’s van. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result of the accident and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the construction vehicle, as well as that driver’s employer.

After the accident, the plaintiff requested that the defendants preserve the construction vehicle, and the defendants agreed. However, when the plaintiff arrived to inspect the vehicle, parts of the vehicle had already been removed and were in the process of being repaired.

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When someone is injured by a dangerous or defective product, they may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Virginia product liability lawsuit. Virginia product liability cases can be complex, as there are several different types of claims that can be brought. In a recent product liability case, the court discussed how a plaintiff’s incorrect use of the product that caused their injury can defeat a plaintiff’s claim.

The Factual Scenario

Per the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff owned a product called a die-grinder that the defendant manufactured. The grinder came with an instruction manual, describing how to safely use the tool. The manual warned users to always wear safety glasses when using the tool and to only use attachments that were rated above 25,000 RPM (revolutions per minute). The manual also warned users to only use the cut-off attachment if a safety shield was installed on the tool. The tool wasn’t equipped with a safety shield, and nowhere in the manual did the manufacturer inform users where to obtain a safety shield.

The plaintiff was assisting a friend with a project that required the use of the grinder’s cut-off wheel attachment. The plaintiff attached a cut-off wheel that was rated at only 19,000 RPM to the tool, which was not equipped with a safety shield. The plaintiff was wearing prescription glasses at the time, which he thought to be sufficient protection.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a medical malpractice case illustrating the importance of expert testimony in Virginia medical malpractice cases. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case should proceed to trial although the plaintiff had failed to provide sworn expert testimony in support of her claim. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff could not prevail based on the lack of sworn expert testimony and dismissed her case.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff visited the defendant medical center to undergo knee surgery. The surgery was uneventful, but afterward, the plaintiff suffered from a shortness of breath. A doctor ordered an x-ray and kept the plaintiff at the medical center for the next few days before she was discharged.

Apparently, two days after she was discharged, the plaintiff noticed that her shortness of breath was worsening and was later admitted to another medical center. While at that center, the plaintiff was diagnosed with pneumonia and doctors believed that she had suffered a stroke over the past few days. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant medical center.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an interesting issue that may come up in a Virginia car accident case. The case presented the court with the opportunity to consider whether a landowner could be held liable for an accident that was allegedly caused by untrimmed trees on the landowner’s property obstructing motorists’ view of an adjacent intersection. Ultimately, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the court should impose such a duty on landowners and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the defendant owned land adjacent to an intersection where the plaintiff and another motorist were involved in a car accident. The plaintiff died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the crash. The plaintiff’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant landowner.

Evidently, a law enforcement official investigating the scene of the accident determined that neither of the motorists applied the brakes or attempted to avoid the collision. The investigator concluded that each of the motorist’s view of the intersection was obstructed by foliage that was on the defendant’s property.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing a doctrine of law that is rarely used in Virginia personal injury cases, but it is important nonetheless. The case involves the application of a doctrine called res ipsa loquitor, which can be used to permit a jury to make an inference that a defendant was negligent despite a lack of evidence showing the defendant acted negligently.

The Res Ipsa Loquitor Doctrine

The term res ipsa loquitor is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself,” and refers to a legal doctrine that may apply in cases where there is no direct proof that a defendant was negligent, but that the plaintiff’s injuries are such that they would not likely have resulted absent the defendant’s negligence.

The classic example of the res ipsa loquitor doctrine is the plaintiff who injured after a box falls on him while he is walking alongside a factory. In such a situation, the plaintiff would have no way of knowing where the box came from, who it belonged to, and why it fell. Thus, if the plaintiff filed a claim against the factory, he may be able to proceed under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor because boxes do not ordinarily fall from factory windows.

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After decades of dog owners vying for designer breeds, animal rescues across the country have become full of the “less desirable” breeds or animals that are of unknown descent. While scientists have for the most part rejected the idea that certain breeds or mixes of breeds are inherently dangerous, an animal’s upbringing is believed to have a significant impact on its personality. Thus, dogs that have been raised without a steady home or shelter, or have been subject to abuse, are more likely to lash out randomly.

Recently, the trend across the country has been to focus more on adopting those animals that need a home, rather than shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for a designer breed. And while this certainly is a welcome change, some pet owners are unaware of an animal’s propensity to attack until they bring them home.

In the event of a dog attack, the owner of the dog may be liable for the injuries caused by their animal. However, Virginia dog bite law employs the “one bite rule,” which makes it difficult for the those bringing a case against an animal’s owner to succeed.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant, which was based almost exclusively on circumstantial evidence, should be permitted to proceed towards trial. The case is important to Virginia personal injury plaintiffs because it illustrates the importance of circumstantial evidence and that circumstantial evidence can be just as convincing as direct evidence.

Direct Evidence vs. Circumstantial Evidence

Evidence can be broken down into two main categories: direct and circumstantial. Direct evidence tends to prove an assertion without any necessary inferences. For example, if an eyewitness sees a crime occur, the eyewitness’ testimony that the defendant committed the offense would be considered direct evidence.

Circumstantial evidence, on the other hand, requires at least one inference be made to prove an assertion. For example, fingerprints that are found at the scene of a crime would be circumstantial evidence that the defendant was at one time present at the crime scene and may have committed the crime. Both types of evidence can be equally persuasive, depending on the evidence itself, as well as the surrounding circumstances.

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