Understanding Comparative Fault in Personal Injury Cases

By Peter DePaolis

Virginia is one of a handful of states that still follows a harsh rule of law about comparative fault in accident claims. Comparative fault refers to a situation in which at least two parties were negligent in causing the accident that caused the injury. In our state, even a tiny portion of fault could destroy your personal injury claim against the party who was primarily responsible for causing your injuries.

A Virginia personal injury attorney could help you understand comparative fault in injury cases. We could also fight your battle on the comparative fault issue and handle your personal injury claim.

How Contributory Negligence Works in Virginia

In Virginia, you can only recover damages for your injuries if the other party was 100% at fault in causing the accident that harmed you. Unfortunately, life is seldom that unambiguous. Often, one person might have a small amount of negligence, like a driver who glanced in the backseat for two seconds, while the other party ran a red light. Most people would feel strongly that the person who ran the red light caused the accident.

The automobile insurance company of the driver who failed to stop might defend against the other driver’s claim aggressively. If they can convince the judge or jury that the other driver was even one or 2% at fault, Virginia law can bar that person from any financial recovery from the other driver. 

The vast majority of states follow a different rule, called comparative fault. With comparative fault, an injured person’s financial recovery will get reduced by their percentage of the total fault. In our scenario, the driver who did not run the red light would get 98 or 99% of their money damages for their injuries and other losses. In reality, it is more likely that they would receive 100% of their claim.

An Exception to Contributory Fault in Our State

Virginia has an important exception to the imposition of contributory fault when a passenger on a bus or another common carrier gets injured. The passenger can bring a claim against the bus driver and the bus company for their injuries. If the driver or bus company violated a safety code, any contributory negligence by the injured passenger will not bar them from recovering at least a portion of their losses.

Recoverable Damages in Personal Injury Accidents in Virginia

Here are some of these standard categories of recoverable damages for personal injury accidents in our state, like motor vehicle collisions, slip and fall accidents, and other types of personal injury claims: 

  • Medical expenses to treat the injured person’s wounds. These can include things like the ambulance, emergency room or urgent care center, hospital, doctors, x-rays or other imaging studies, surgery, physical therapy, prescription drugs, and other healthcare services.
  • Lost wages, if you did not get paid for all of the time that you were away from the job recuperating from your injuries and medical procedures.
  • Pain and suffering, for the physical discomfort, inconvenience, and emotional distress of your injuries and the accident. 

Because of the issue of contributory negligence in our state, you will want to talk to a Virginia personal injury attorney about your claim. You can reach out to us today for a free consultation.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.