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When making a personal injury claim, many Virginia residents get surprised by the state’s contributory negligence rule. In most cases, this rule often prevents deserving victims from getting compensation for their injuries.

Here is what you need to know about Virginia contributory negligence laws and how they work.

What Is Contributory Negligence?

Most states follow some form of either contributory or comparative negligence. However, these two doctrines differ significantly when it comes to personal injury cases. Based on the 1947 court case Baskett v. Banks, Virginia is a pure contributory negligence state.

In that case, the Supreme Court of Virginia stated, “No person is entitled to recover from another for damages which have been occasioned by his [or her] own act or his own neglect.”

This means that if the court finds the plaintiff even 1% responsible for their injuries, they may not receive compensation. So even the slightest bit of fault on the part of the injured party bars recovery of damages.

Pure contributory negligence is a relatively rare and distinct doctrine found in only a handful of states.

Unfortunately, this rule makes it incredibly difficult to win a personal injury case in Virginia without the help of an attorney.

In contrast, other states follow a comparative negligence doctrine. This rule allows plaintiffs to recover compensation even if they share some fault in their injury.

Instead of completely barring the plaintiff, most states just reduce their award by a percentage of the injured party’s fault.

Examples of Contributory Negligence

There are a few different ways that the Virginia contributory negligence law may play out depending on the circumstances.

Here are a few situations where contributory negligence in Virginia may bar compensation:

  • A driver hits a car after running through a stop sign, but the other driver did a rolling stop instead of a full stop;
  • A vehicle hits a pedestrian crossing the road, but the victim decided to cross without obeying the crosswalk signal; or
  • A person slips on someone’s icy sidewalk in the winter, but they were running instead of walking.

While the defendant may be mostly responsible in these above scenarios, Virginia contributory negligence law still applies. This means that any of these victims may be barred from compensation due to their small share of negligence.

A good example of Virginia’s negligence laws in action is the 1962 case, Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. v. Rosenberger.

In this case, a woman slipped on a puddle of blue liquid starch on the floor in a grocery store.

While this may seem like the store’s fault, the Supreme Court of Virginia decided to hold the woman responsible since she didn’t see the starch against the white floor; the store was “not required to warn” the customer of a “dangerous condition that was open and plainly visible to a person reasonably alert for [their] own safety.”

While this may seem harsh, it’s the reality of personal injury cases in Virginia.

Questions About Virginia Negligence Law? Contact Us Today

If you sustained an injury in Virginia, don’t count on the defendant’s insurance company to be empathetic. At River Run Law, we know that fighting a personal injury claim on your own may be taxing, especially during recovery.

Our goal is to advocate for your physical, emotional, and financial well-being. We manage every aspect of your case—from gathering evidence to negotiations—so you can focus on recovery.

To schedule an initial consultation, give us a call or contact us online. We welcome clients throughout the state of Virginia to our office in Richmond.

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Casey Ariail

Casey is a founding partner at River Run Law Group. Casey has tried numerous cases across the Commonwealth in both General District Court and Circuit Court. He has earned millions of dollars for his clients through trials, mediations, and settlements.

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