What You Need to Know About Car Crashes and Virginia’s Contributory Negligence Law

Apr 23, 2020 | Auto Accidents

There are plenty of car crashes where one driver was entirely at fault. Often, the at-fault driver was speeding, drunk or distracted.

There are also many accidents where both drivers were partially at fault. Usually, one driver holds the majority of fault for the crash while the other did something negligent in the moments before the crash. For example, maybe the victim stopped for no reason before being rear-ended by a driver who was tailgating.

Unfortunately, Virginia applies a contributory negligence law to these situations, which is discussed below.

However, you should not take the insurance company’s word for it that you are partially at fault, because you may not be. The Richmond car accident lawyers at Geoff McDonald and Associates are available to answer your legal questions in a free, no-obligation legal consultation.

Contributory Negligence in Virginia

Unfortunately, if you are found to hold any responsibility for a car accident in Virginia, you are barred from recovering any compensation. This is because of Virginia’s contributory negligence law, which says if you are even one percent at fault, you cannot recover any compensation for your damages. It does not matter how severe your injuries are or the value of your lost wages.

This is a severely restrictive law that is only in place in a handful of states (Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland and Washington D.C.), Most other states have comparative fault systems that allow you to recover compensation even if you are partially at fault. In many of these states, you can recover compensation if you are not more at fault than the other party. In some states, such as Arizona, you could be 99 percent at fault and technically still be able to receive compensation.

Despite this law, you should strongly consider discussing the accident with a licensed attorney, particularly if you think it is very clear the other driver is at fault.

It is important to practice defensive driving and follow the rules of the road. Distracted driving and other dangerous behaviors could easily cause you to be found at fault for an accident.

Common Reasons Victims May be Partially to Blame

There are many reasons why accident victims could be partially at fault for different types of crashes:

Rear-End Accidents

Rear-end accidents are quite common. They are often caused by the tailing driver following the lead car too closely. This is often because the driver in the rear vehicle was distracted or impatient and experiencing road rage.

However, the lead driver could also be at fault for various reasons:

  • Failing to turn on hazard lights when your car is broken down
  • Stopping your car for no reason
  • Stopping in preparation for a turn and then not turning
  • Failing to use your turn signal, even though the other driver was tailgating you

Speeding-Related Accidents

Even though the other driver was breaking the law by going above the speed limit, you could be at fault if you were negligent in some way. For example, maybe you were trying to make a right turn when you did not have the right of way. The other driver was speeding but you helped cause the crash by pulling out into the intersection.

Merging Accidents

There are many reasons why the victim in a merging accident could be partially at fault. If you were merging but the car to your left or right was speeding, you may not be to blame.

If two vehicles were merging into the middle lane from opposite sides and they merged at the same time, it may be difficult to determine who is mainly at fault.

Parking Lot Crashes

What if you hit a car while backing out of a parking space but the other driver was speeding? What if you were the one hit by a car backing out of a parking space and you were speeding or distracted?

These are just two examples of situations where the victim of a parking lot crash could be held partially at fault.

Have Legal Questions? Call Today to Set Up Your Free Consultation

We understand accident victims have a lot of questions about the legal process, such as what their claim may be worth and if they even have a case.

Our attorneys are here to answer your questions and discuss how we may be able to assist you throughout the legal process. There is no risk to you as the initial consultation is free of charge and there are no fees for our services unless we recover compensation.

Geoff McDonald and Associates: 804-888-8888.


No Fees Unless We Win

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