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Virginia Personal Injury Laws

Injury can take many forms, such as property damage, breach of contract and fraud. Virginia’s personal injury laws cover every type of injury claim. A personal injury lawsuit can be very complicated due to the nuances of the laws surrounding it and not every case is handled similarly.

If you’ve been injured in Virginia Beach, Norfolk or Chesapeake, use LawInfo’s Virginia personal injury articles to learn about the laws surrounding your case and to find a qualified attorney.

Virginia Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations limits how much time after an injury occurs that a plaintiff has to pursue legal action against a defendant. Once the statute “runs out,” a lawsuit cannot be pursued. Virginia’s civil statute of limitations includes:

  • Two years for wrongful death.
  • Two years for personal injury.
  • Five years for injury (or damage) to property.
  • Five years for written contracts.
  • Three years for oral contracts.
  • Two years for fraud.
  • Two years for medical malpractice.

Proving Negligence in Virginia

Most personal injury lawsuits rely on the defendant’s negligence. If a court finds that the defendant’s negligence was responsible for the plaintiff’s injury, the defendant may be held liable for damages. Determining whether the defendant was negligent can be a challenging task that requires a thorough examination of the defendant’s actions during the injuring incident.

Virginia courts will often measure a defendant’s negligence and liability based on the four elements of negligence, which are best understood when posed as questions:

  1. Did the defendant possess a duty of care to the plaintiff’s safety that included taking precautions against specific, foreseeable injuries?
  2. Did the defendant’s actions during the injuring incident constitute a breach of their duty of care?
    • At this point, the court will compare the defendant’s actions to those of a “reasonably prudent” person in a similar situation. This theoretical person’s actions are considered responsible and law-abiding. Any deviation from a reasonably prudent action could be seen as negligence.
  3. Did the defendant’s actions cause the plaintiff’s injury?
    • Again, the court examines whether the injuries were reasonably foreseeable and preventable by the defendant. If the injuries weren’t directly or indirectly caused by the defendant’s breach of duty and could only be caused by the plaintiff’s or a third party’s negligence, the defendant may be excused from full liability.
  4. Is the plaintiff’s injury an economic or noneconomic damage that can be compensated?

Types of Damages in Virginia

There are two types of damages that can be recovered in Virginia personal injury lawsuits: actual (or compensatory) damages and punitive damages. Each type of damages serves a specific purpose but both are awarded to the plaintiff.

Actual damages seek to “make whole” the losses that the plaintiff has and may continue to suffer as a result of their injury. This type is further subdivided into two categories: economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages represent a financial loss—an actual dollar value that the plaintiff has lost in the form of lost property value, medical treatment bills, repair costs, etc. Noneconomic damages represent a personal loss—a loss that doesn’t have a specific dollar value, like loss of consortium, pain and suffering, etc.

Punitive damages seek to punish the defendant and discourage future negligence. They aren’t tied to any losses the plaintiff has suffered.

Virginia law sets limits to recoverable damages in certain circumstances. In general, punitive damages awards are capped at $350,000 for all civil lawsuits, including for medical malpractice. Medical malpractice cases have a total damages award cap that increases annually. This means that if you’re awarded the maximum in punitive damages ($350,000), your actual damages award would be limited to the difference up to the total damages cap.

The total damages cap is increased by $50,000 every July 1st. By July 1, 2017, the medical malpractice total damages cap will be $2.3 million.

Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney

Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills and other complications. You should have an attorney help you with your claim. Not sure if you have a good injury case? Speak to a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can help you protect your rights and take the proper next steps.

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