When it comes to determining whether an injured person can pursue a Virginia personal injury claim after an accident, Virginia relies on the doctrine of contributory negligence. Contributory negligence is a harsh rule, that prohibits any injured person from bringing a claim against any other at-fault party, if the accident victim shares any blame for causing the accident. Thus, if a motorist is found to be only five percent at fault for a car accident, they could not file a Virginia car accident lawsuit against the other driver who was 95 percent responsible.
Clearly, the contributory negligence rule can lead to some very unfair results. And despite years of efforts from personal injury attorneys and some politicians, state lawmakers refuse to adjust the doctrine. Notably, Virginia is one of only a few states that still use contributory negligence. Most other states rely on a doctrine called comparative fault, in which an at-fault accident victim can still recover for their injuries, but will only recover a reduced amount. Specifically, the accident victim’s damages award is reduced by their own percentage of fault.
However, there is a very important exception to Virginia’s contributory negligence rule in accidents involving common carriers. A common carrier is an individual or business that transports people for a fee. For example, buses, taxis, and Uber and Lyft drivers are all common carriers.
If someone is injured while a passenger on a common carrier, the state’s contributory negligence laws will not bar them from bringing a claim, even if they shared fault in causing the accident.
There are a few other exceptions to the contributory negligence rule. For example, failing to wear a seat belt is not considered contributory negligence. The rationale behind this rule is that a motorist’s failure to wear a safety belt does not contribute to the accident, although it may increase the severity of their injuries.
Another exception involves accidents in which the other motorist is engaging in “willful or wanton” conduct. For example, if an accident victim is hit by a drunk driver, contributory negligence will not prohibit them from pursuing a claim against the drunk driver, even if they shared responsibility for the accident.
Finally, if the defendant driver had the “last clear chance” to avoid the accident, but failed to do so, contributory negligence will not prevent an accident victim from bringing a case.
Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia motor vehicle accident, contact the Schupak Law Firm, LLC, for immediate assistance. At the Schupak Law Firm, we represent accident victims and their families in all types of Virginia personal injury lawsuits, including car accidents, slip and falls, nursing home neglect and abuse, and instances of medical malpractice. With our help, you can pursue a claim for compensation against those responsible for your injuries. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case, call 240-833-3914 today. You can also reach us through our online form.