Virginia Personal Injury Law and Settlements

On this page, we will examine Virginia personal injury lawsuits and their settlement value. We will explain some of the basic rules of tort law in Virginia, such as what types of damages plaintiffs can get and how long they have to file their case. We will also explore the average settlement value of personal injury lawsuits in Virginia.

Statute of Limitation on Virginia Personal Injury Lawsuits

In Virginia, most personal injury, cases must be filed within two years of when the negligence occurred or the “claim accrues” (Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-230). If you don’t file your lawsuit before the 2-year period expires, it will be legally barred.

Like most states, Virginia follows the “discovery rule” to determine when the 2-year limitations period begins. Under this doctrine, a claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or reasonably should know that they potentially have a legal claim against the defendant.

In auto accident cases, the claim accrues on the accident date because any reasonable person should understand that they have a claim against an at-fault driver. In malpractice cases, however, the date when the claim accrues can be much more complicated.

SOL in Virginia Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Virginia sex abuse lawsuits are subject to a separate statute of limitations period depending on whether the abuse transpired when the victim was an adult or a child. If the abuse occurred during the victim’s childhood (under 18 years old), Virginia law grants them until their 38th birthday (20 years following their 18th birthday) to initiate a civil lawsuit regarding the abuse (Va. Stat. § 8.01-243(D)).

Conversely, if the victim was an adult when the abuse occurred, they must file a lawsuit within 2 years from the date of the incident. However, a new law enacted in March 2023 in Virginia extends this timeframe for adult victims of sexual abuse to 15 years if the abuse was perpetrated by a “person of authority.”

Damages Available in Virginia Personal Injury Cases

Under Virginia law, anyone physically injured by the negligent or reckless conduct of another person or entity is entitled to hold that person financially responsible for the “damages” caused by the injuries. Damages are intended to make the plaintiff whole by restoring them to their position before the injuries. In Virginia, personal injury plaintiffs are entitled to 3 different categories of damages:

  • Pain & Suffering: under Virginia law, injured plaintiffs can also collect damages for mental pain & suffering related to the physical injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence.
  • Medical Expenses: Virginia accident victims are entitled to compensation for the full cost of all medical care and treatment for the injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence. The plaintiff is entitled to recover the full cost as long as the treatment is medically necessary and reasonable. This includes the cost of future medical treatment that may be required down the road.’
  • Lost Income: Virginia plaintiffs can get damages for any lost wages or lost income that they incurred as a direct result of the injuries caused by the defendant. For example, Jack is rear-ended by Jill and injures his back. Jack can’t return to his job as a roofer for six months after the accident. When he finally does go back, Jack can no longer get up on the roofs, and his company has to move him to a desk job that pays $20,000 less per year. If Jack brings a personal injury lawsuit against Jill, he would be entitled to damages for the six weeks of lost wages plus the $20,000 per year in future lost income.

Caps on Damages in Virginia Injury Cases

For most personal injury cases in Virginia, there is no maximum cap or limit on the amount of damages a plaintiff can get. However, Virginia does have a damages cap that applies to injury cases involving medical malpractice. Damages in Virginia medical malpractice cases are capped at $2.55 million, although the cap increases every year. This cap set the maximum amount of all types of damages that a plaintiff can get in an medical malpractice case.

Contributory Negligence Not Comparative Negligence

Virginia operates under the “contributory negligence” rule. This means that if a plaintiff is found even 1% at fault for the injury, they may be barred from recovering any damages. This standard is stricter than the “comparative negligence” rule adopted by many other states.

Defendants asserting the contributory negligence defense against a plaintiff must show that the plaintiff’s negligent actions were a direct or contributing factor leading to the accident.

Virginia Dog Bite Law

In Virginia, dog bite law incorporates elements of both strict liability and the “one bite rule.” This means that a dog owner can be held responsible for injuries inflicted by their dog, regardless of whether they were previously aware of the dog’s dangerous nature.

For a successful dog bite claim in Virginia, a victim must demonstrate the following:

  1. The defendant had ownership or control of the dog.
  2. The dog bit or attacked the plaintiff.
  3. The plaintiff endured injury due to this dog bite or attack.

Dangerous and Vicious Dog

Under Virginia Code sections 3.2-6540 and -6540.1, a “dangerous dog” and “vicious dog” are defined. For an owner to be held liable, they must have been aware that their dog had previously caused harm. If a dog harms another person or animal, it serves as a warning to the owner about the dog’s potential dangerous or aggressive tendencies.

Subsequently, the owner should exercise greater caution regarding their dog’s future behavior. This principle is commonly known as the “one bite” rule. However, if an owner hasn’t been made aware of their dog’s tendencies, Virginia jurisprudence suggests that the dog owner still has “the duty of using ordinary care to prevent his dog from injuring others.”

One Bite Rule

Virginia’s “one bite rule” often confuses many. Contrary to its name, the rule doesn’t grant every dog a “free bite.” Instead, the rule states that a dog owner might not be held liable the first time their dog bites, unless it can be evidenced that the owner was, or should have been, aware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies. Even without a prior bite, behaviors like growling or snapping can hint at a dog’s aggressive nature.

There are exceptions to the “one bite rule”. For instance, if the owner had knowledge of the dog’s potential danger before any bite or if they failed to adhere to local leash laws, they could still face liability.

Virginia Wrongful Death Lawsuits

In the event of a death as the result of negligence in Virginia, two distinct legal claims can arise. Under Va. Code § 8.01-50, a wrongful death claim allows an administrator to initiate a lawsuit if a person’s death results from wrongful acts or neglect.

The potential damages in such cases are detailed in Va. Code § 8.01-52, while the distribution method is outlined in Va. Code § 8.01-53. This section explicitly outlines the categories of eligible beneficiaries.

The funds obtained from a wrongful death lawsuit are not incorporated into the deceased’s estate as per the wrongful death statute’s specific terms

Secondly, there’s a survival claim for personal injuries as per § 8.01-25. This allows a personal injury claim to continue even after the injured person’s death, as long as the injurious actions did not directly result in the death.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Virginia?

The personal representative of the deceased’s estate typically files a wrongful death claim. However, the compensation is intended for the deceased’s statutory beneficiaries. These beneficiaries, in the order of priority, include:

  • Surviving spouse and children or grandchildren.
  • Surviving parents, siblings, or any relative who shared the deceased’s household and was a dependent.
  • Surviving family members who would inherit the deceased’s estate if there were no will.

Types of Damages for Wrongful Death

In a wrongful death claim in Virginia, the following damages may be sought:

  • Sorrow and mental anguish.
  • Loss of the deceased’s companionship, guidance, and advice.
  • Lost wages and benefits (including future earnings the deceased could reasonably have been expected to earn).
  • Medical expenses related to the deceased’s final illness or injury.
  • Reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
  • Punitive damages if the death was caused by willful or wanton conduct.

Time Limit to File

Virginia has a statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. Generally, a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of death.

Survival Actions vs. Wrongful Death Claims

Again, Virginia law differentiates between survival actions and wrongful death claims. A survival action is brought on behalf of the deceased and seeks compensation for the damages they suffered before their death, such as pain and suffering. In contrast, a wrongful death claim compensates the surviving family members for their losses stemming from their loved one’s death. So the survival action recovery is damages that the deceased would have been entitled to if they had survived. These recovered damages are considered assets of the estate and can be used to settle any outstanding debts of the deceased.

Settlement Value of Virginia Personal Injury Lawsuits

The potential value of a Virginia personal injury lawsuit in a settlement or trial depends on several different factors. The most significant factor by far is the severity level of the plaintiff’s physical injuries. Cases involving more serious, permanent injuries have a higher settlement value. The chart below shows average settlement values for Virginia personal injury cases based on injury level.

LEVEL 1 (Minor) $18,000 – $32,000
LEVEL 2 (Moderate) $61,000 – $145,000
LEVEL 3 (Major) $245,000 – $730,000

 There are many other factor besides injury severity that impact the potential value of case. The type of personal injury case (e.g., auto accident vs. medical malpractice) often makes a big difference, in part because of the amount of available insurance to cover any damages. Another major factor is the location or venue of the case.

Virginia Mass Tort Cases

There are number of national mass torts or “class actions” that involve thousands of Virginia plaintiffs, including claims our law firm is handling across the country:

  • Hair relaxer lawsuit: recent evidence has shown that long term use of chemical hair relaxer products (most commonly used by African American women) can cause uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, and other conditions. This has prompted hundreds of women to file hair relaxer lawsuits.
  • Suboxone Tooth Decay Lawsuits: Suboxone is an opioid dependency drug. It has recently been show to cause severe tooth decay and tooth loss. A growing number of Suboxone tooth decay lawsuits are now being filed against the manufacturer for failing to warn about this known problem.
  • Tylenol autism lawsuit: new studies have determined that using Tylenol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy can cause the baby to develop autism or ADHD. This has prompted a growing class action lawsuit by parents of children with autism and ADHD.

Virginia Personal Injury Verdicts and Settlement

 $5,000,000 Settlement (Norfolk 2023): A 54-year-old man, having recently recovered from cancer, was hit by a city-owned car while crossing the street in a marked crosswalk. Despite initially declining medical attention, he later presented with symptoms consistent with a mild traumatic brain injury and developed chronic depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. He was diagnosed with secondary post-traumatic hydrocephalus and had a shunt surgically inserted. Additionally, he suffered from severe growth hormone deficiency and post-traumatic hypersomnia. The case settled for $5 million in mediation before trial.

$3,500,000 Settlement (Richmond 2023): Plaintiff A.P.G., approximately six-weeks-old, was reportedly placed by his father in an inclined sleeper that was a component of the Ultra-Lite Day and Night Play Yard. A.P.G.’s father allegedly used the harness and connected straps of the play yard in accordance with the instructions but later discovered the sleeper had collapsed and A.P.G. had fallen to the bottom of the play yard. The plaintiff reportedly suffered a brain injury, seizures and spasticity, cardiac arrest, and multi-organ dysfunction. The plaintiff contended the play yard contained a design defect.

$300,000 Settlement (Bedford County 2023): The decedent was reportedly a passenger in an eastbound vehicle driven by her husband when a southbound vehicle operated by defendant failed to yield the right-of-way at an intersection controlled by a stop sign, causing a collision. Decedent died form injuries sustained in the accident after a month in the hospital. This was probably a policy limits settlement, which is why it was not higher.

$3,500,000 Verdict (Federal Court 2023): The plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle that was headed south on an interstate at the same time a truck owned and/or operated by defendant Leonard’s Express Inc. was headed south in an adjacent lane. The plaintiff said the truck driver tried to maneuver into her lane, behind her vehicle, but there was not enough space, and the truck made contact with the rear of her vehicle, causing her to lose control, veer off the interstate and flip over. The plaintiff allegedly suffered injuries that included a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

$400,000 Verdict (Roanoke County 2023): A 77-year-old woman went to Roanoke Memorial Hospital and underwent procedures including a cardiac catheterization as part of her treatment. She died, allegedly due to a massive retroperitoneal hemorrhage, having lost three liters of blood, resulting in fatal hypovolemic shock subsequent to her catheterization procedure. Wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the hospital. The settlement value of this was probably lower because the decedent was older and may have been in poor health to begin with.

$200,000 Settlement (Campbell County 2023): An elderly nursing home resident at the Elms of Lynchburg fell and eventually died from injuries related to his fall. His estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home for negligently failing to prevent him from falling.

$186,312 Verdict (Norfolk 2022): was reportedly driving his automobile near an intersection when it collided with a vehicle operated by defendant. The plaintiff said he suffered personal injuries due to the collision. The plaintiff said the defendant’s negligent driving, which included failing to maintain proper control over his vehicle, failing to yield the right-of-way and driving at an excessive speed, caused the collision.

Contact Us About Virginia Injury Lawsuits

If you have a personal injury lawsuit in Virginia we can help get you the maximum compensation. Contact us today at 800-553-8082 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

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