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Richmond Personal Injury Lawyer / Blog / Personal Injury / What is Contributory Negligence in Virginia?

What is Contributory Negligence in Virginia?


When another party’s negligence or intentional act results in a serious accident that causes harm to another person, the injured party often does — and should — consider options for seeking compensation to cover damages and losses associated with the injury. In motor vehicle crashes such as car accidents and pedestrian collisions, it may be possible for the injured party to file an auto insurance claim or to file a civil lawsuit against the liable party. In some cases, the injured person may be hesitant to file a lawsuit even when there is clear evidence of the other party’s fault out of concern that the at-fault party will raise the issue of contributory negligence.

What is contributory negligence in Virginia, and how should it impact your decision about whether or not to file a civil lawsuit? Our Richmond personal injury lawyers can explain in more detail, and we can discuss the specific facts of your case with you if you have any questions or concerns.

Contributory Negligence as a Defense 

When a personal injury lawsuit is filed by an injured plaintiff, one of the defenses that the defendant (i.e., the person accused of being liable for injuries) might raise is the defense of contributory negligence. A defendant might invoke the contributory negligence rule in Virginia to avoid being responsible for paying damages to the plaintiff, despite the defendant’s own fault. How does this work?

Understanding Systems of Contributory Negligence and Comparative Fault 

In general, rules of contributory negligence and comparative fault are defenses that the defendant can bring up to say that the plaintiff is also responsible for their injuries, and thus the defendant’s liability should be limited or reduced.

Many states in the US follow a comparative fault or modified comparative fault rule, which says that an injured plaintiff can still obtain damages from a defendant, despite their own fault, in many circumstances. In pure comparative fault states, a plaintiff can recover damages as long as the defendant is even 1 percent at fault, but the plaintiff’s damages award will be reduced by that plaintiff’s portion of fault. In modified comparative or contributory fault states, a plaintiff can recover as long as they are less than 51 percent or 50 percent at fault, depending on the state.

However, contributory negligence states — and Virginia is one of these states, to be clear — bar a plaintiff from recovery as soon as a plaintiff is even 1 percent at fault.

When Contributory Fault Comes Up in Your Injury Case 

If you have concerns about being partially at fault but have proof that the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries, it is important to know that a lawyer can help you to argue that the contributory negligence rule does not apply to your case — even if the defendant has already invoked the rule.

Contact a Richmond Personal Injury Attorney for Assistance 

The way contributory negligence works in Virginia can seem daunting to a person who has been injured in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, but it is important to remember that a lawyer can assist you with all aspects of your case — including working to prove that the defendant is fully responsible for the accident that resulted in your injuries. In other words, even if you have concerns about contributory negligence, it is essential to discuss the facts of your case with a lawyer before you make any assumptions about your ability to obtain damages. One of the experienced Richmond personal injury lawyers at Latham & Martin can speak with you today about your case.



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