If you were injured in a motor vehicle collision and you plan to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, it is important to understand how the issue of contributory fault could impact your lawsuit. While the issue of contributory negligence does not come up in every motor vehicle crash lawsuit, it can ultimately result in an injury victim being barred from recovery. It is critical to have an experienced Fairfax auto accident lawyer on your side throughout your case in order to help you obtain the financial compensation you deserve. In the meantime, the following are five important things to know about contributory negligence and auto accident claims in Virginia.
- Contributory Negligence in Virginia is Different from Comparative Fault in Other States
Different states have their own laws concerning contributory negligence and comparative negligence, and it is critical to know that Virginia’s pure contributory negligence law is much more limiting for plaintiffs than similar laws in other states. Both contributory negligence and comparative fault laws refer to situations in which a plaintiff is also partially responsible for the injuries for which that plaintiff brought a lawsuit.
Under Virginia’s contributory negligence law, if a plaintiff is determined to be at fault in any way for her injuries or their severity—even just one percent at fault—then the plaintiff is completely barred from recovery. Virginia is one of only a few states that uses this pure contributory negligence law. Most states allow a plaintiff to recover damages if that plaintiff is partially at fault, but to different degrees.
- In Virginia, Contributory Negligence Can Bar Recovery
As we discussed above, any time a plaintiff is even minimally negligent in Virginia, contributory negligence will bar the plaintiff’s recovery.
- Contributory Negligence is a Defense Strategy Raised by the Defendant
You should know that contributory negligence is never an issue that a plaintiff raises, and it is never an issue raised by the court alone. Instead, this is a defense strategy that a defendant will use in order to avoid liability for the plaintiff’s injuries and, thus, having to pay damages.
For example, if a plaintiff is injured in a car crash caused by a drunk driver who ran a red light, but the plaintiff was speeding at the time of the accident, the injured plaintiff will have filed a car accident lawsuit against the drunk driver. However, the drunk driver might learn that the plaintiff had been driving 10 miles per hour over the speed limit at the time of the collision, and the drunk driver might raise the issue of contributory negligence. If the drunk driver is able to show that the plaintiff was even partially at fault for the accident—5 percent at fault, or even 1 percent at fault—the plaintiff can be barred from recovery under Virginia law.
- Defendant’s Use of Contributory Negligence Defense Does Not Automatically Mean You Will Be Barred from Recovery
Just because the defendant raises the issue of contributory negligence as a defense does not mean that this defense strategy will work. With help from an experienced Northern Virginia auto accident attorney, you can present evidence that shows the defendant was fully at fault for the accident and should be liable for damages. To be clear, the defendant’s use of a contributory negligence defense does not automatically mean that you will be barred from recovery. With a lawyer’s help, you can contest those allegations and present evidence that proves otherwise.
- Do Not Discuss Concerns About Your Own Fault Unless It Is With Your Virginia Car Crash Lawyer
Finally, to avoid the issue of contributory negligence arising in the first place, and to avoid giving the at-fault driver any evidence that could help with a contributory negligence defense, you should avoid saying anything about your own fault at the scene of the accident or afterwards unless you are speaking with your own Fairfax car accident lawyer. Even if you apologize at the scene of the accident, or apologies and say “sorry” when you are speaking with an auto insurance representative or adjuster, that apologize can be used as evidence of your own negligence. And, as you now know, even if you are found to be minimally at fault—even one percent at fault—you will be barred from recovery.
Accordingly, stick to the facts and remain objective at all times unless you are speaking directly with your own car accident attorney.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Northern Virginia
If you were injured in a motor vehicle collision, you should seek assistance from a Fairfax car accident lawyer as soon as possible. One of our experienced injury attorneys can help with your case. Contact Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C. for more information about the services we provide in Manassas, Fairfax, and throughout Northern Virginia.