You may have a personal injury claim if someone caused an accident in which you were injured. These cases can be complex and lengthy, and the laws surrounding them confusing. A personal injury lawyer in Virginia can help you understand your rights.
Where to File
The appropriate venue for your suit depends on the value of your claim and where your injury took place. In general, Virginia's district courts hear cases valued at less than $4,500, while the circuit court hears those worth more than $25,000. The two courts share authority for cases with in-between values. A lawyer can help you choose the appropriate court.
Statute of Limitations in Virginia
You have a limited amount of time to file a claim after your injury. For most cases, that time limit is two years. If your injury was not immediately apparent, such as some medical malpractice cases, the clock generally starts ticking at discovery.
If your claim is against the state or local governments, you have a shorter time limit for giving them written notice of your injury.
Damages You May Receive
Damages are awarded to compensate you for losses due to your injury. These losses may be economic, such as medical bills and lost wages. For the most part, there are no monetary limits on these awards.
Other losses, such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life, are non-economic but no less real. They are generally calculated based on the extent to which your injuries affect your life, now and in the future.
If your injuries were the result of a deliberate act intended to hurt you, you may also be eligible for punitive damages. In general, the state limits how much you may receive for non-economic and punitive damages.
Virginia's Pure Contributory Negligence Rule
The state is one of only a few that still use the pure contributory negligence rule based on common law. Under this rule, if you are even 1 percent at fault for your injuries, you may not receive any damages. There are a few exceptions, and it is generally up to the defendant to prove you share blame.
The Discovery Process
This process uses a variety of methods to bring the true facts of the case to light. These can include:
Interrogatories—Written questions that must be answered under oath. The respondent has a specific amount of time to submit written answers.
Depositions—Oral interviews by the opposing attorney. These are usually recorded.
Medical examination—The defense may request you be examined by its doctor.
This stage can be lengthy, especially if the sides disagree on what information is relevant to the case. Additional motions may be needed to resolve such disputes.
How Mediation Works
Even after filing suit, you will usually continue negotiating in an attempt to settle without a trial.
If negotiations stall, you can try mediation. In this process, an impartial person without an interest in the case (a mediator) helps both sides communicate and find common ground.
A mediation session generally begins with both sides meeting and summarizing their positions. Then the mediator talks with each side separately, bringing offers back and forth until they can agree on final terms. If mediation also fails, you will generally go to trial.
Talk with a Lawyer
Virginia's personal injury laws are strict, and if you do not follow them exactly, you may lose your right to collect damages. An experienced lawyer can help ensure that does not happen and may even be able to get you a larger award.