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Injured Passenger Rights in Virginia: Can You Sue the Driver?


Being involved in a car accident as a passenger can be a traumatic experience, resulting in injuries and financial burdens. If you find yourself in such a situation in the state of Virginia, it’s essential to understand your rights as an injured passenger. One crucial question that arises is whether you can sue the driver of the vehicle for your injuries. In this blog post, we will explore the legal landscape in Virginia and shed light on the factors that determine an injured passenger’s ability to take legal action against the driver.

Understanding Negligence:

To establish a valid claim against the driver, an injured passenger must prove that the driver was negligent. Negligence refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm to others. The injured passenger must demonstrate that the driver breached their duty of care and that this breach proximately caused their injuries.

Contributory Negligence Rule:

Virginia follows a contributory negligence rule, which can significantly impact an injured passenger’s ability to recover damages. Under this rule, if the injured passenger is found to have contributed in any way to the accident or their injuries, they may be completely barred from recovering compensation. It’s important to note that this is a strict standard compared to comparative negligence, which allows for recovery even if the injured party is partially at fault.

Insurance Coverage:

In many cases, an injured passenger can seek compensation through the driver’s auto insurance policy. Virginia law requires drivers to carry minimum liability insurance coverage, which may provide compensation for the passenger’s injuries. Additionally, the passenger’s own insurance policy, under their uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, could come into play to cover their losses.

Statute of Limitations:

It’s crucial to be aware of the statute of limitations, which sets a time limit for filing a lawsuit. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including those by injured passengers, is generally two years from the date of the accident. Failing to file a lawsuit within the specified time frame can result in the loss of the right to seek compensation.


As an injured passenger in Virginia, you generally have the right to sue the driver of the vehicle if their negligence caused your injuries. However, the contributory negligence rule can be a significant hurdle to overcome, as even a small degree of fault on your part can bar you from recovering any damages. Consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney is crucial to understand your rights, navigate the legal complexities, and maximize your chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries. Remember, each case is unique, so seeking professional legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances is highly recommended.

Written by Attorney Matthew B. Westmoreland

Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys:

We concentrate our personal injury practice in vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and animal bites.

Please contact us if you’ve been injured.  We offer a free, no-obligation consultation.  We have four convenient office locations: Charlottesville, Lake Monticello, Harrisonburg & Staunton.

If you’re too injured to come in, we’ll be happy to meet you at the hospital or your home.  We will fight to get you the full value of your case.

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