What is Personal Injury?

Personal injury is a legal field also known as tort law. Its purpose is to protect injury victims who have been harmed through the acts, failures to act, or intentional wrongdoing of others. A personal injury case may involve harm to a person’s body, emotions, or reputation. Under the law, an injury victim is entitled to bring a civil cause of action for compensation against the at-fault party. The amount of compensation is based on the nature and extent of the losses suffered by the victim. 

What Are the Main Issues in a Personal Injury Claim?

Any personal injury claim involves two main issues – liability and damages. 

What Is Liability Based On for Personal Injury Purposes?

A defendant may be held liable for a plaintiff’s injuries based on negligence, intentional acts, or strict liability:

  • Negligence: This can be defined as a failure to use reasonable care that results in injury or damage to another. It is a failure to exercise the same level of care a reasonable person would have used in the same or similar circumstances. For example, a driver who was speeding while talking on a cell phone and rear-ended another vehicle may be found negligent and liable for the accident.
  • Intentional acts: A person who commits assault, battery, or another criminal act may be held civilly, as well as criminally liable. The O.J. Simpson trials are a famous example. Although O.J. was acquitted in the 1995 murder trial, he was later found civilly liable for the wrongful deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman and was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages to their families.
  • Strict liability: The definition of this term is a liability that does not depend on intent to harm or actual negligence. For example, some states have strict liability laws for dog bites whereby dog owners are liable for any injuries caused by their animals, regardless of whether or not the owner was negligent. 

How Are Damages Established?

Damages are monetary compensation for losses suffered by personal injury victims. The two types of compensatory damages are economic and non-economic. 

  • Economic damages: These are actual financial damages suffered by the plaintiff because of the harm caused by the defendant. Examples include medical expenses, lost wages or earnings, and loss of future earning capacity.
  • Non-economic damages: This term refers to compensation sought for non-monetary, subjective losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional trauma, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.

In addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages may sometimes be awarded. These damages are designed not to compensate the victim but to punish the defendant for wrongdoing and deter similar actions in the future. For example, under the Code of Virginia § 8.01-44.5, a person who was injured by a drunk driver or surviving family members of a person who was killed by a drunk driver may be awarded punitive damages. This may occur if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15% or higher at the time of the crash or if the driver refuses to submit to blood alcohol testing. 

What Are Some Different Types of Personal Injury Matters?

Each day in Virginia, people are injured through the negligence or wrongdoing of others. Examples of common incidents that give rise to personal injury claims include:

  • Car accidents: In 2022, a total of 1,005 traffic fatalities occurred on Virginia roadways, as stated on Drive Smart Virginia. In addition, 162 non-fatal injuries occurred every day. Driver distraction was a contributing factor in many preventable accidents.
  • Pedestrian and bicycle accidents: 171 pedestrians and 11 bicyclists were killed on Virginia roadways in 2022. Many pedestrian and bicycle accidents are caused by negligent drivers who are distracted, speeding, drug or alcohol-impaired, or fail to yield the right of way to cyclists or pedestrians.
  • Truck accidents: In a collision with an 80,000 lb. 18-wheeler, passenger vehicle occupants are likely to suffer serious injuries. Many truck accidents are caused by some type of driver error and/or negligence on the part of the trucking company. 
  • Motorcycle accidents: Lacking the protections of an enclosed vehicle, motorcyclists are vulnerable to serious injuries in a crash. Many motorcycle accidents are caused by the negligence of other drivers. 
  • Premises liability: Property owners have a duty of care to maintain their property in a safe condition to prevent harm to visitors. Slip and fall accidents caused by wet floors, food or drink spills, loose carpeting, uneven flooring, and other hazards are one type of premises liability injury. 

What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in Virginia?

For most personal injuries, the statute of limitations (time limit for filing a lawsuit) is two years after the date of the injury. However, this time limit is extended for medical malpractice claims in certain situations under the Code of Virginia § 8.01-243. For example, when a foreign object with no diagnostic or therapeutic effect is left in a patient’s body, the time limit is extended by one year from the date the object is or should reasonably have been discovered.

Do You Need a Lawyer for a Personal Injury Claim in Virginia?

If you have been injured through someone else’s negligent or intentional act, your best chance of recovering the compensation you deserve is to have an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney handling your case. At Ashwell & Ashwell, we are a multi-faceted firm with former prosecutors and a retired judge on our team. We are skilled negotiators and effective litigators with a history of success for our clients. Contact us at (540) 991-9100 for compassionate representation in a personal injury claim. 

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