Your Richmond Personal Injury Case: The Basics
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed August 08, 2017
If you have been injured in an accident in Richmond, it can be difficult to know what to do. Virginia personal injury law covers situations in which a person’s body, mind, or emotions are hurt, usually due to someone else’s negligence. It includes many types of accidents including slip and fall,defective products,wrongful death, dog bites, and more.
Here’s some information to help guide you through the process of a Richmond personal injury case.
Outline of a Typical Richmond Personal Injury Lawsuit
1. You’re injured because of someone else’s negligence;
2. You may meet with a personal injury lawyer to discuss whether or not you have a case;
3. You or your lawyer files a complaint in the Richmond court and serves it on the defendant(s);
4. The defendant may be required to file an answer;
5. Both sides gather evidence and engage in discovery;
6. A pre-trial conference takes place between judge and the attorneys to discuss; possible settlement. You may also be able to hire a mediator and settle out of court;
7. If there isn’t a settlement, a trial takes place and a verdict is rendered;
8. Either party can appeal the decision to appellate courts.
See a Doctor
The first thing you should do is seek medical help if you are injured. If you are feeling pain or discomfort, seek medical attention. A lawsuit can wait. Your health can’t. Be completely honest with your physician and explain how the injury happened. That way your doctor can provide you the best treatment and you’ll have a record of your treatment in case it’s needed later.
Time Limit to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
There is a time limit to file a personal injury lawsuit. In Virginia, there’s a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases. There are a few exceptions if you are a minor or judged incompetent.
What Are Damages?
The term for collecting money to compensate you for your injuries is called damages. In Virginia, you may be able to collect damages for things such as lost wages and potential future earnings, medical bills related to the incident, property loss or damage, pain and suffering, and the cost to hire help for household tasks.
Although some states place a damage cap or limit on recovery for non-economic losses, Virginia does not.
What About Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages usually are sought only if the defendant was grossly reckless or intended to injure the plaintiff. These damages are awarded as punishment to make sure the defendant won't commit the act again.
Virginia law does allow an injured person to collect punitive damages, but places a limit on the amount you can recover. Virginia state law limits punitive damages recovery to $350,000 or 5 times compensatory damages.
How Do I Prove Fault in Virginia?
In order to win a case, a plaintiff typically must prove the defendant was negligent or “at fault” for the injuries. Determining who is at fault isn’t always easy. It will depend on the particular circumstances of each case. A lawyer may rely on evidence collected from the scene, expert testimony, witnesses' statements or a combination of these.
If you are also to blame for the accident, you might be out of luck. Virginia still follows a harsh rule in regards to personal injury lawsuits.
It’s called contributory negligence. That means an injured person may not be able to recover anything if he or she was even as little bit at fault in the accident. Even if you are 1% at fault, you may be out of luck.
This doesn't mean that injured individuals should not try to pursue a case. However, it is just something to keep in mind when you are considering whether to bring a personal injury lawsuit in Richmond.
Are Lawyers Expensive?
Yes, everyone has heard how expensive attorney’s fees can be. However, most personal injury lawyers charge what are known as contingency fees. This means a plaintiff doesn’t have to pay the lawyer upfront, but he or she will collect a portion of the settlement or judgment if they are successful in the lawsuit. A settlement is considered a “win” the lawyer typically gets paid at that point. The flipside is that if the lawyer loses the case, they don’t get paid.
Other possible costs in a case include court fees, money to pay expert witnesses, copying and other documentation charges, and more. Again, lawyers often foot some or all of these bills until a personal injury case is resolved.
Hiring a Richmond Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a family member has suffered a personal injury in Richmond due to someone else’s negligent behavior, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses and suffering. It may be worth at least considering talking to a qualified lawyer.
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