Articles Posted in Personal Injury Law

During the discovery phase of a Virginia personal injury case, each of the parties can request that certain evidence is provided by the opposing side. As a general rule, parties must provide evidence when it is requested and ordered by the court, even if the evidence at issue is harmful to the case of the party who possesses it.

Given this reality, it may be tempting for a party who is in possession of adverse evidence to alter or destroy it. The legal term for the destruction or alteration of evidence is spoliation. Of course, the spoliation of evidence is prohibited, and parties who are found to have spoliated may face serious sanctions. One common sanction is an instruction to the jury allowing the jurors to take an adverse inference from the missing evidence. A recent case discusses this issue in detail.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a slip-and-fall accident while a resident in the defendant nursing home. Evidently, the plaintiff’s fall was caught on video, which the nursing home administration was able to view several times. However, the nursing home did not preserve the video, and eventually, it was recorded over.

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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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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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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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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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Recently, 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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In 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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The 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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