After a car accident, you are dealing with physical, emotional and financial consequences. You feel that you deserve compensation for your injuries and want to pursue a lawsuit. But what happens if you were partially at fault for the accident?
Virginia is one of only five jurisdictions that have pure contributory negligence laws. In most other states, which follow the doctrine of comparative negligence, the liability of both the plaintiff and defendant will be compared to determine compensation amounts. But in Virginia and other pure contributory negligence states, if you are found at least one percent at fault for the accident, you will not receive any damages. No matter how at fault the other party is, if you are found even slightly liable, you won’t recover compensation.
This law works against the plaintiff, who must prove that the defendant was 100 percent at fault. When a defendant or insurance company claims the plaintiff was partially at fault, the best defense for the plaintiff is usually the “last clear chance” rule. This rule means that, even when it is determined that the plaintiff contributed to the accident, the defendant had a last clear chance to avoid the accident.
For example, one driver starts to enter an intersection from a stop sign but does not have the space to cross safely, so he stops driving. Another driver, who sees what is happening and has time to react, instead hits the first driver and causes serious injury. The first driver contributed to the accident by stopping in the intersection, but the second driver had an opportunity to avoid the situation and did not. If the first driver uses the “last clear chance” rule, he may be able to get compensation for his injuries, despite Virginia’s tough standard of pure contributory negligence.
To ensure that you get the compensation you need and deserve after an accident, it is important that you have an attorney on your side who understands Virginia negligence laws.
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