Articles Posted in Personal Injury Law

In many Virginia personal injury cases, the most contested element is that of causation. Essentially, to establish causation, a plaintiff must be able to show that their injuries were a legal and proximate result of the defendant’s negligent actions. While this may sound like it would be a straightforward determination, in reality, issues of causation are often quite complex.

Exhaust PipeA recent opinion issued by a state appellate court illustrates how courts interpret causation challenges to a plaintiff’s case. The case involved a used-car dealer that allegedly sold the plaintiffs a car without a muffler.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs purchased a used car with 180,000 miles for $1,500 from the defendant dealership. While the plaintiffs were made aware of some of the car’s mechanical issues, at no point were the plaintiffs told that the car was being sold without a muffler.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case that presents an issue that is relevant to Virginia car accident victims considering filing a personal injury lawsuit. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s case should have been dismissed based on the dishonest answers he provided during the discovery process.

Neck XrayThe Facts of the Case

About seven years ago, the plaintiff was involved in a collision with the defendant. After the accident, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging that the accident caused various injuries to his shoulder, back, and neck, and that the other driver should be liable for the accident and damages.

After the complaint was filed, the parties engaged in the discovery process. Discovery is part of the pre-trial procedure that allows each party to obtain evidence from the opposing party. Some common forms of discovery are requests for medical documentation, depositions, and interrogatories.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that presents an interesting issue for Virginia slip-and-fall victims who are considering filing a premises liability claim. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence of the defendant store’s negligence to survive a defense summary judgment challenge. Ultimately, the court held that the defendant’s willful ignorance of the potential hazard may give rise to liability, and it determined that the lower court was improper to grant summary judgment to the defendant.

Grocery StoreThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff slipped and fell in a Wal-Mart store while walking down an aisle. Although the plaintiff did not notice anything on the floor as she approached the spot where she fell, when she got up, she noticed that she had slipped in a puddle of water.

As it turns out, there was a Rug Doctor display in that aisle from which customers could rent carpet cleaning machines. The display was set up so that a customer could rent the machine from an automated kiosk near the machines. As a part of the agreement between Rug Doctor and Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart would receive a portion of the income the kiosk generated for allowing the use of the store’s aisle space. However, Wal-Mart employees were not necessary in the regular operation of the machine and were not trained on how to use the kiosk or repair the machines. A Rug Doctor employee would routinely stop by to perform the necessary maintenance.

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Earlier this month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a written opinion in a Virginia car accident case discussing whether a third party’s insurance policy covered the plaintiffs’ accident. Ultimately, the court concluded that the insurance company was acting within its right to deny coverage and dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit, based on the fact that the vehicle the plaintiffs were operating was not a “covered auto” under the third party’s insurance policy.

Highway TrafficThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were independent contractors who agreed to deliver furniture for a local furniture company. However, since the plaintiffs did not have their own vehicle, the furniture company allowed the plaintiffs to deliver the furniture using a Penske truck that it had rented.

During the delivery, the plaintiffs pulled over, and one of the plaintiffs got out of the truck to check that the load of furniture was secure. At this time, another vehicle crashed into the truck, killing one plaintiff and seriously injuring the other.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an issue that may have increasing importance in Virginia car accident cases. The case required the court to determine if a defendant can assert an imputed negligence defense against an owner-passenger who is injured due to the alleged negligence of someone whom she allowed to use her car.

Rear-EndedAlthough this defense was historically permitted, the court held that recent changes in the law and how insurance policies are written no longer provide support for the defense. Thus, the court held that the defense was not valid.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a woman who was waiting in the front-passenger seat of a car she owned while her husband – the driver – ran into a restaurant to grab the couple’s order. The plaintiff’s husband had parked the vehicle in a lane that was perpendicular to the defendant’s truck. As the defendant backed out of the parking space, he crashed into the plaintiff’s vehicle.

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A key element in a Virginia premises liability lawsuit is establishing that the defendant landowner had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injury. If a landowner has actual knowledge of a hazard, that is generally easy to establish through the words or actions of the landowner. However, establishing constructive knowledge can be more difficult.

Wet Floor SignWhat Is Constructive Knowledge?

Constructive knowledge is a legal fiction, whereby a court will presume that a party had knowledge of a fact based on the circumstances. Essentially, if a court finds that a party had constructive knowledge of a fact, the court is saying that the party should have had knowledge of the fact, given the surrounding circumstances. For example, if a grocery store manager claims to not have knowledge of a puddle formed by a jar of pickles that fell from the shelf, but then he testifies that he walked by the puddle 10 times while helping customers, a court may determine that the manager had constructive knowledge of the puddle.

Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a case, providing a real-world example of how courts analyze cases involving a defendant’s constructive knowledge of a dangerous hazard.

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Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case dealing with the admissibility of expert testimony in a product liability lawsuit. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony was not admissible, she was unable to prove her failure-to-warn claim. The court then rejected the plaintiff’s defective design case based on the fact that the manufacturer’s warnings were found to be sufficient.

WaverunnerThe case is important for Virginia boat accident victims because it illustrates the importance of expert witness testimony in establishing liability.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when she fell off the back of a personal watercraft (PWC). At the time of her injuries, the plaintiff was riding as the fourth passenger on the machine, was wearing only a bikini, and had consumed alcohol prior to boarding the watercraft. It was undisputed that the plaintiff was not in compliance with the warnings contained on the machine, but the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, claiming that the warnings were defective.

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A Virginia appellate court recently issued a written opinion in a Virginia product liability case discussing a plaintiff’s burden in establishing a defective design claim. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim was insufficient as a matter of law, and it dismissed the case.

ForkliftThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff worked at a factory. He was trained on a folder-gluing machine, and to earn some extra money, he cross-trained on another vehicle that was similar to a forklift. While the plaintiff completed some of the training to operate the forklift, he did not obtain certification to use the vehicle.

One day, the factory was especially busy, and the plaintiff’s supervisor asked him to operate the forklift. The plaintiff agreed and began unloading boxes of paper from a trailer. In order to do this, the plaintiff had to drive the forklift up a ramp and into the trailer. During one of the trips, the forklift got caught between the ramp and the trailer.

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The issue of the admissibility of social media posts is in Virginia personal injury cases has recently become a hot topic. Across the country, courts have come up with different methods of handling this sensitive information. Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case presenting the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a plaintiff’s private social media account should be made available to the defendant.

Social MediaThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff sustained a serious brain injury after falling off a horse that was owned by the defendant. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff claimed that her active lifestyle was curtailed, due to the limitations from which she now suffered. As evidence of these limitations, the plaintiff explained that she used to be very active on social media, but she closed her account six months after the accident because she was having a difficult time composing messages and writing posts.

After hearing this, the defendant sought access to the plaintiff’s private Facebook account. The defendant did not request access to the entire Facebook, just pictures from before and after the accident, as well as the length of the messages the plaintiff sent after the accident. Apparently, the defendant wanted to see if the plaintiff’s claims that she could not effectively compose messages were verifiable.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case presenting an interesting issue that frequently comes up in Virginia premises liability cases. Specifically, the case considered whether the presence of a young child’s parents can act to mitigate any duty that was owed to the child by the defendant landowner. Ultimately, the court concluded that it can, and it dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit against the defendant.

Cup of JoeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case was a young child who was seriously injured while visiting the defendant coffee shop. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the young child was accompanied by his parents. After the family ordered their food and drinks, they went upstairs to use the restroom before leaving. On the way out, the parents heard one of their two young sons screaming.

As it turns out, a metal pole that was used to create the line leading up to the cash register had fallen on the young boy’s hand. The boy was taken to the hospital, but doctors were unable to save the boy’s finger, which had to be amputated.

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