Contributory negligence in Virginia

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2021 | Car Accidents

When a victim of a car accident seeks monetary recovery via a personal injury claim, one of the first things the decision-maker must do is determine fault. Who caused the accident? If both parties acted negligently, was one party more negligent than the other? 

If the latter is the case, the courts generally rely on the state’s comparative negligence laws. These laws dictate how much claimants can recover from a personal injury claim, or even if they can recover at all. According to FindLaw, states recognize one of three comparative negligence theories. 

Modified comparative fault

Under the modified comparative fault theory, a person can recover compensation for a personal injury so long as his or her percentage of fault falls at or below 50% or 51%. Most states abide by this theory. The courts reduce the amount of recovery by the percentage of fault a plaintiff assumes. 

Pure comparative fault

Nearly one-third of states abide by a pure comparative negligence theory. Under this theory, a plaintiff in a personal injury case may recover damages so long as he or she does not assume 100% liability, even if his or her shared percentage of fault is 99%. As in modified comparative negligence states, the courts reduce the amount of recovery by the percentage of fault a plaintiff assumes. 

Pure contributory negligence

Pure contributory negligence is the exact opposite of pure comparative fault. Per this theory, plaintiffs who assume even just 1% of fault cannot recover damages. In these states, the defendant has to be 100% at fault for the injured party to collect compensation. Also according to FindLaw, Virginia is one of the few states that still abides by this strict theory of negligence. 

Virginia does allow for a “common carrier exception,” though. If a person sustains an injury as a passenger on a bus, airplane, train or other “common carrier,” the state will not bar his or her recovery even if he or she violated a safety code. 

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