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Proving Negligence in Virginia Personal Injury Cases

— April 29, 2022

Personal injury cases are normally complicated and could get rather confusing.

Negligence is one of the most essential legal concepts in personal injury claims. For an injury victim to succeed in their claim, they must satisfy all legal elements of negligence by establishing proof of all the parts of the personal injury offense. In the following article, we’ll explain the different elements of negligence in Virginia to help you understand and be more prepared in the event of a personal injury. 

Negligence Laws in Virginia

Filing a claim for personal injury in Virginia requires that the plaintiff prove negligence. To prove negligence four elements must be established: 

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care,
  • The defendant breached that duty of care,
  • The breach was the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, and
  • The plaintiff suffered damages.

In an effort to help you better understand these elements of negligence, we’ll go through each of them in depth below:

Duty of Care

The most important aspect to prove in a personal injury negligence claim in Virginia is that you were owed a duty of care.

A duty of care is basically a standard of reasonable care one should follow while performing anything that could cause harm to others.

Here are a couple of examples of duty of care:

  • Code of Virginia, Title 8.01, Section 34, et seq. (Injury to Person or Property).
  • Code of Virginia, Title 8.01, Section 50, et seq. (Death by Wrongful Act).

Breach of the Duty of Care

Once it is completely established that the defendant owed you a duty of care, the next step is to prove beyond doubt that the defendant has breached that duty of care. 

There are many ways to achieve this and it’s the job of your attorney to convince the court that the defendant has failed to meet their duty of care. 

Some of the ways used to prove a breach of duty of care include:

  • Expert testimony.
  • Medical & Financial records and documents.
  • Official police reports.
  • Videos and photos. 

Proving Damages in a Personal Injury Case

According to the injury attorneys from Shapiro, Appleton, Washburn & Sharp, Virginia is one of the few remaining states in the country that operates under a contributory negligence system. This means that to prevail in a negligence case, the other person must have been 100% at fault for your damages..

Additionally, if you were injured as a passenger riding a bus or a similar common carrier, you may be entitled to compensation from both the bus company and driver to help you recover from any injuries.

Negligence Examples in Virginia

As previously mentioned, negligence will have to be proven by the injured parties in order to succeed in their claim. However, Virginia is fairly lenient to plaintiffs, so let’s look at specific examples where the defendant has fallen below the guidelines of ordinary care but that are not conclusive proof in the courts. 

For example, picture a situation where a car cuts in front of a bicyclist, runs a red traffic light at an intersection, and an accident happens. The person riding the bicycle will claim they were struck when the light was red so they are likely to succeed in their claim.

Two boys popping wheelies on bikes; Photo by Brett Sayles on
Two boys popping wheelies on bikes; Photo by Brett Sayles on

On the other hand, the defendant would claim they acted reasonably and did not cause the cyclist injuries. They could claim that they had the green light when passing the intersection and that there were other reasons why the cyclist was involved in the accident including pedestrians on the street. 

Understand Your Legal Position

Personal injury cases are normally complicated and could get rather confusing. Even when there is clear negligence involved, the defendant’s attorney may be able to challenge your claims in many ways. 

By having an experienced personal injury attorney by your side, you ensure that your preparation will be thorough and that you’ll have the highest chances of proving negligence and winning the case. With statutes of limitations around 2 years from the date of the incident, it’s always recommended to get a head start by consulting with attorneys early on. 

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