How Does Contributory Negligence Work in Virginia?
You may be entitled to pursue compensation if you were injured in Virginia because of someone else’s wrongdoing. However, if you were at fault for your injury at all, it affects your ability to recover compensation. Virginia follows the contributory negligence rule and has an all-or-nothing compensation recovery system.
Under Virginia’s contributory negligence rule, if someone partially caused their own injury, they generally cannot recover compensation. In Virginia, people must exercise reasonable care for their safety. Failing to exercise that care and contributing to the injury means they were also negligent and cannot recover compensation for their injuries.
Example of Contributory Negligence
To fully understand contributory negligence, consider the following car accident example. One party to the accident (the plaintiff) makes a legal right turn on a green light while texting. They are hit by the second party (the defendant), who ran the red light. The plaintiff gets injured. The defendant, who ran the red light, broke the law. However, the plaintiff, who was texting and driving, was also negligent. Therefore, the court assigns the plaintiff five percent fault because of their texting and driving violation. As a result, the court does not award compensation to the plaintiff.
Last Clear Chance Doctrine
The last clear chance doctrine is an exception to contributory negligence that allows a contributing party to recover compensation. Under this doctrine, if the defendant can avoid an accident and chooses not to, the court party may award compensation to the plaintiff even if they contributed to the event causing the injuries.
For example, imagine someone is riding their bike and sees you running and looking at your phone. They keep riding straight at you even though there is room to move over. You may be able to recover compensation even if the court finds you partially at fault. This is because the bike rider had a chance to avoid the collision but failed to swerve. The last clear chance doctrine applies when there are two negligent parties.
To establish the last clear chance doctrine, the plaintiff must show the following:
- The plaintiff was in a position of danger created by their negligence.
- The defendant was aware, or should have been aware, of the plaintiff’s position of danger.
- The defendant had a clear opportunity to avoid the contact that created the injury.
- The defendant failed to take the opportunity.
Assumption of Risk
In cases where a plaintiff assumes the risk of the activity, they cannot recover compensation even if they did not contribute to their injury. For example, if someone chooses to participate in a high-risk activity like football and breaks their collarbone, they likely cannot recover compensation. This is because they knew the risk of getting injured in the high-contact sport and chose to participate anyways.
In Virginia, the assumption of risk is a complete defense when the plaintiff had actual knowledge of the dangers associated with the activity and engaged in it anyway, barring recovery of compensation.
However, this defense is not absolute. If the defendant intentionally or recklessly created a danger not inherent in the activity, or was grossly negligent or reckless, the injured party can recover compensation. For example, if a football player stands vulnerable between plays and is tackled by someone intending to injure them, they may recover compensation for those injuries.
Contact an Experienced Attorney Today
The Virginia attorneys of Whitestone Young PC are experienced in representing individuals in personal injury cases. We are ready to use our skills and knowledge to fight for your best interests. Let us put our experience to work fighting for you as you seek compensation. To discuss your legal option during a consultation, contact us online or at (703) 591-0200.