Virginia law is relatively harsh when it comes to an accident victim’s fault. If their negligence contributed to the accident and that contributory negligence was a proximate cause of the accident, they may be barred from any recovery. However, negligence is not always clear-cut, and there are often issues with causation as well as defenses to contributory negligence so it is a good idea to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Virginia follows the law of contributory negligence
It is crucial to keep in mind that the defendant has the burden of proving your contributory negligence. In other words, there is a presumption that you were not negligent unless the defendant can prove that you were.
Contributory negligence can arise in many ways. It may mean the plaintiff did not watch out for their safety or was acting carelessly.
Who determines contributory negligence?
Ultimately, a jury or a judge determines each party’s degree of fault for an accident. However, most personal injury cases do not end up before a jury. It is, therefore, essential that you and your personal injury lawyer build the strongest case possible. This is so you can persuade the insurance adjuster or defense counsel that a jury or judge would find in your favor.
The defendant or insurance company may argue that your negligence is a foregone conclusion. Even when it is true, it is not always the end of the story. For example, in one Virginia case, a teenage plaintiff was struck by a car while riding a bicycle to school. It was in low light conditions, and he didn’t have a front lamp that was required by law.
The defendant’s lawyer argued that the plaintiff’s negligence barred his right to sue. However, the judge found that where reasonable minds could disagree as to whether the teen’s riding without a lamp was a contributing cause of the accident, his negligence was an issue for the jury.
Also, Virginia has a doctrine called “last clear chance” that may apply and allow a helpless or inattentive injured person to still recover even if that person was negligent.
The take-away here is that you should always discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney who can offer a personalized analysis of your accident.
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Sometimes the outcome of your personal injury case comes down to who can make the most persuasive legal argument. If there is a chance you might bear some of the blame for your accident, talk to an attorney with experience in complex cases. Our lawyers at Rutter Mills have proudly served the residents of Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, and the surrounding areas. Consultations are always free and confidential.
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