Virginia’s Contributory Negligence Rule May Make Recovering after a Slip-and-Fall Accident Difficult

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.

In a 2017 appellate opinion, a Virginia court discussed the doctrine of contributory negligence, condoning its future use. However, that case also affirmed an exception to the contributory negligence rule, the “last clear chance doctrine.”

Virginia’s Last Clear Chance Doctrine

Under the last clear chance doctrine, a negligent plaintiff will not be precluded from recovering from a defendant who was also negligent and had the last opportunity to avoid the harm giving rise the plaintiff’s injuries but failed to do so. Thus, a finding that the plaintiff was negligent will not necessarily preclude that plaintiff’s recovery. Anyone injured in a Virginia slip-and-fall accident, or any other type of personal injury accident, should consult with a dedicated Virginia personal injury lawyer.

Are You Looking for a Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you have recently been injured in a Virginia slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Attorney Charles B. Roberts is a dedicated Virginia personal injury lawyer who handles all types of Virginia injury claims, including car accidents and slip-and-fall accidents. Attorney Roberts also provides all prospective clients with a free consultation in which he can answer any questions you have and explain how he can help you pursue a claim for compensation. To schedule your free consultation today, call 703-491-7070, or complete our online form.

See More Blog Posts:

Landowner Determined Not to Be Liable for Accident Caused by Untrimmed Foliage, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, November 29, 2018.

Court Determines Plaintiff’s Misuse of Product Precludes Subsequent Product Liability Lawsuit, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, December 11, 2018.