• What You Should Know About Contributory Negligence and Personal Injury Lawsuits

    What You Should Know About Contributory Negligence and Personal Injury Lawsuits

    If you get hurt in a car accident or a slip and fall accident, you may consider filing a personal injury lawsuit. If you do file a personal injury claim, what will happen if the defendant argues that you are partially to blame for the accident itself or for the severity of your injuries? For example, what will happen if you file a claim against a negligent driver who caused a serious motor vehicle collision because he was driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, but that negligent driver argues that you are also partially at fault because you were speeding at the time of the crash? Or, for example, what will happen if you file a premises liability claim against a retail store owner after a slip and fall accident, but that store owner argues that you were texting on your phone while walking through the store and thus are partially to blame for failing to notice the liquid spill that caused your slip and fall?

    These questions raise the important issue of contributory negligence in Virginia within the context of personal injury law (Va. Code § 8.01-243). We will tell you more about how contributory negligence works under Virginia law and why it is so important to have an experienced Manassas personal injury attorney on your side.

    Learning More About Contributory Negligence

    What is contributory negligence? According to the Cornell Legal Information Institute (LII), pure contributory negligence, which is the system Virginia uses, has been “abolished in most jurisdictions.” We will say more about this below. In terms of defining contributory negligence, the LII explains that, “under contributory negligence, a plaintiff [is] totally barred from recovery if they were in any way negligent in causing the accident, even if the negligence of the defendant [is] much more serious.”

    Contributory Negligence Can Bar a Plaintiff’s Recovery in Virginia 

    Under Virginia law, contributory negligence can completely bar a plaintiff’s ability to recover any damages in a personal injury lawsuit. While some states follow what is known as a pure comparative fault rule or a modified comparative fault or comparative negligence rule—in which a plaintiff’s recovery is only reduced by his or her percentage of fault—a small number of states, including Virginia, follow what is known as a pure contributory fault rule. Let us explain more about how this works.

    In other states with a pure comparative fault rule, a plaintiff is never barred from recovery even if she is at fault. Rather, her damages award is reduced by her percentage of negligence or fault. For example, if a plaintiff is 10 percent at fault, her damages award will be reduced by 10 percent. Other states follow a modified comparative fault rule, which bars a plaintiff’s recovery only when a plaintiff is 50 percent or 51 percent at fault, depending on the state. Up until that point, a plaintiff’s recovery is simply reduced by her percentage of negligence. In Virginia, if a plaintiff is even one percent negligent, however, she is completely barred from recovery.

    Seek Help from a Manassas Personal Injury Lawyer

    If you are concerned that the defendant will raise the issue of contributory negligence, you should speak with a personal injury attorney in Manassas as soon as possible about your case. We can work on your case to help prove that you were not at fault and that you deserve compensation. Contact Leary Law for more information.


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