Articles Posted in Personal Injury Law

In most cases in which a party is injured due to the negligence of someone else, the injured party can hold the person or entity responsible for their injuries accountable through a Virginia personal injury lawsuit. However, in some cases, a plaintiff may be prevented from recovering for their injuries even if the defendant was negligent. The doctrine of assumption of the risk is just one example.

HorsebackAssumption of the Risk

The doctrine of assumption of the risk can be used by the defendant as an affirmative defense in some personal injury cases. Essentially, the doctrine prevents a plaintiff from recovering compensation for his injuries when the defendant can prove that the plaintiff was aware of the risks involved in participating in the activity and took on those risks voluntarily. A recent case illustrates how courts apply the assumption of the risk doctrine.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was participating in a horse racing event with approximately 50 other riders when she was injured by the defendant’s horse. Specifically, the plaintiff had dismounted from her horse and was in the process of picking up relay cards related to the day’s race when the defendant’s horse bumped into the rear of another horse, who then kicked another horse, resulting in several horses running out of control. The plaintiff was struck by one of these horses while she was on foot.

Continue reading

Car insurance is mandatory in Virginia and should help injured accident victims get back on their feet after being involved in a serious Virginia car accident. However, the reality is that insurance companies are for-profit companies that view claims as “expenses” that should be minimized. Thus, in most cases, insurance companies will either deny an accident victim’s claim for compensation or offer a low-ball settlement figure in hopes of quickly resolving the matter in as inexpensive a way as possible.

Deployed AirbagsEarlier this month, a Rhode Island court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a good samaritan who was seriously injured when she exited her car in an attempt to assist another motorist who had just been involved in an accident. The case is a good example of how Virginia car accident victims may encounter difficulties when dealing with insurance companies, and how an attorney’s assistance may make a difference in whether an accident victim receives compensation for their injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a passenger in a car being driven by a friend. The two were on their way to a grocery store and had pulled into a space in the store’s parking lot. After parking the car, the plaintiff and her friend got involved in a conversation and stayed in the car for a few minutes. During this conversation, the plaintiff heard a loud noise that turned out to be a car accident that had occurred on an adjacent street.

Continue reading

An issue that often comes up in Virginia medical malpractice cases is whether the treating doctor adequately warned the patient of the risks associated with a given course of treatment. Earlier this month, an Oklahoma appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a medical malpractice case involving the information that a physician is required to provide to a patient in order to obtain informed consent prior to a medical procedure. Ultimately, the court concluded that a physician must inform a patient of all non-doctor assistants who will be performing significant portions of the procedure in order to obtain the patient’s informed consent.

Operating RoomInformed Consent

Before a patient undergoes any non-emergency medical treatment, the treating physician must obtain that patient’s consent. Over the years, courts have consistently held that a patient must have a certain level of knowledge as to what they are consenting to undergo in order for a patient’s consent to be valid. This is called informed consent. When a physician fails to obtain a patient’s informed consent to perform a medical procedure, and something goes wrong during the procedure, resulting in an injury to the patient, the doctor may be liable under a medical battery theory of liability.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a patient of the defendant gynecologist. In 2010, the defendant recommended that the plaintiff undergo a total laparoscopic hysterectomy, and the plaintiff agreed. Prior to the surgery, the plaintiff was presented with a consent form that stated that the plaintiff authorizes the defendant and “whomever he/she (they) may designate as his/her assistants, to perform the following operative or diagnostic procedure(s): total laparoscopic hysterectomy.” The informed consent form contained an area designated to list the names of any assistants who would be participating in the procedure; however, that area was left blank.

Continue reading

When someone is injured while using any kind of product, they may be able to seek compensation for their injuries through a product liability lawsuit filed against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the product. In many cases, these lawsuits do not require that a plaintiff establish that the named defendants knew about the alleged defect; however, additional damages may be available if a plaintiff is able to prove that the defendant knew about the defect and failed to correct it.

Disc BrakesOne key issue in many product liability cases is the availability and admissibility of “other similar incident” evidence, or OSI evidence. OSI evidence is important for product liability plaintiffs to understand, and it can be very persuasive because it may show that a defendant manufacturer should have known about the alleged defect, based on the other reported incidents. However, courts are careful about admitting OSI evidence because it may complicate matters for the jury and can result in undue prejudice. A recent case illustrates how plaintiffs in a recent car accident case were able to admit OSI evidence.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were stopped at a red light on a highway off-ramp when they were rear-ended by another motorist who was driving a 1996 Toyota Camry. The Camry was traveling at approximately 75 miles per hour when it rear-ended the plaintiffs. Two of the five plaintiffs in the vehicle were killed as a result of the accident, one sustained a traumatic brain injury, one was left a paraplegic, and the final plaintiff suffered a broken leg.

Continue reading

Virginia courts see tens of thousands of cases each year. If each of these cases was presented to a jury, the court system would get bogged down, resulting in cases taking several years to be heard. Thus, Virginia courts only allow cases to be presented to a jury when there is an important and disputed fact that the jury must resolve. However, if the issues presented in a case are legal in nature, a judge can make the decision through a process called summary judgment.

MotorcycleVirginia’s Summary Judgment Standard

In Virginia, either party can move for summary judgment, asking the court to find in their favor without the necessity of going to trial. This can save considerable time and expense; however, summary judgment is only appropriate when there “is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court will look at the parties’ pleadings and proffered evidence. A recent motorcycle accident case illustrates a situation in which an appellate court agreed with the lower court that summary judgment was appropriate.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving wife of a man who was killed in a motorcycle accident. On the day of the accident, the motorcyclist was driving eastbound on the highway in the far-right lane of travel. The defendant pulled up to the intersection, heading northbound on a perpendicular street, and was waiting to make a left turn across the highway to head westbound.

Continue reading

While all landowners and business owners have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for those whom they invite onto their land, there are limitations to this duty. One of the most common limitations that courts impose on a landowner’s duty to keep his premises safe involves dangerous conditions that are readily apparent to guests.

Wet FloorThe rationale behind this limitation is that an injured party should not be permitted to seek compensation for their injuries if they were aware of the dangerous condition that ultimately caused their injuries. A recent case illustrates how a state appellate court was asked to apply this limitation on a landlord’s duty, but it declined to do so.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a college student. On a clear and sunny day, she was dropped off at school by her father. She entered the building where her first class was and attended class. During her first class, the weather outside changed, and it began to rain. However, the plaintiff was not aware of the change in the weather because the classroom where she was did not have any windows.

Continue reading

Virginia courts apply the doctrine of contributory negligence when determining which parties will be able to seek damages following an accident. Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, an accident victim’s negligence can completely bar their ability to receive compensation for their injuries. This is even the case if the plaintiff is just 5% responsible for the accident.

Old Pick-UpWhether an accident victim is considered “at fault” is usually a matter for the jury to determine. However, a recent case out of South Carolina held that a plaintiff’s potential negligence is not relevant to cases claiming that a vehicle was not safely designed to withstand the force of an accident.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a passenger in a Chevy Pick-up truck being driven by a friend. The two had been smoking synthetic marijuana and were driving on the highway when the driver ran a stop sign. As the pick-up truck entered the intersection, it was struck by another vehicle that had the right-of-way.

Continue reading

In Virginia personal injury trials, the presiding judge has the power to determine which evidence the jury can consider. In doing so, the judge must consult with the rules of evidence, which are passed by the state legislature. As a general rule, only evidence that is relevant to the case may be considered. However, not all relevant information is admissible.

Police CarRelevant evidence may be inadmissible for a number of reasons. For example, hearsay evidence is generally excluded. Similarly, evidence that is very prejudicial to one party may be excluded even if it is technically relevant. In a recent car accident case, the court was tasked with determining whether a defendant’s two prior convictions for driving under the influence were admissible.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was on his way to work when he was involved in a head-on collision with another motorist, who was driving home from a bar. That driver was later determined to have a blood-alcohol content of .18, which is over twice the legal limit.

Continue reading

Earlier this month, an appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a plaintiff’s personal injury case because the court determined that the plaintiff was injured while she was acting as a firefighter. Applying the “firefighter’s rule,” which was codified in a state statute, the court explained that the defendants were immune from liability because the plaintiff’s injury resulted “from the condition of fire protection or firefighting equipment or facilities.”

FirefighterThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a firefighter who was called out to fight a wildfire that had gotten out of control. Since the wildfire was rapidly spreading, many firefighters were called out to assist. The temporary barracks that were set up for firefighters filled up, and the plaintiff sought approval to set up camp in the infield of a racetrack that was acting as the center of operations. The plaintiff’s supervisor granted her permission to set up camp in the infield.

On the first night, there were no problems. The plaintiff woke up and fought the fire all day before returning. On the second night, however, a truck that was delivering water ran over the plaintiff, resulting in serious injuries. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the truck and several other defendants.

Continue reading

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a product liability lawsuit brought against tire manufacturing giant Goodyear. While the Supreme Court’s decision reversed a $2.7 million fine assessed by the lower court, the Court ordered the lower court to recalculate the figure.

TireThe Pre-Trial Discovery Process

After a lawsuit is filed, but before the case is heard by a jury, the parties go through the discovery process, in which each side exchanges documents, witness lists, and other potential evidence. As a general rule, a party must disclose all requested relevant evidence to opposing counsel, even if that evidence may be detrimental to the party’s case. A party’s failure to comply with a discovery request may result in sanctions imposed by the court.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs owned a motor home that was equipped with Goodyear tires. While the plaintiffs were driving the motor home on the highway, a tire blew out, sending the motor home off the road. The motor home flipped over, and several plaintiffs on board were injured. The plaintiffs filed a product liability claim against Goodyear, arguing that the tire was defective because it was not designed to operate at highway speeds.

Continue reading