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Is Virginia a Contributory Negligence State for Slip and Fall Accidents?

Understanding Slip and Fall Laws in Virginia

Suffering a slip and fall accident in Virginia can lead to serious injuries and financial hardship. In Virginia, slip and fall cases fall under premises liability laws, which determine who is at fault and liable for damages. Virginia follows the legal doctrine of contributory negligence, which can limit the ability of an injured victim to recover compensation if they are deemed even partially at fault for the accident. It is important you contact a personal injury attorney in Virginia if you are a victim of a slip and fall accident. 

Each member of the Altizer Law team has years of experience advocating for clients with determination and success. We are committed to you and your case, and enjoy calling our offices today, free of charge at 540-345-2000.  

What is the Law for Slip and Fall Cases in Virginia?

Virginia premises liability law states that property owners must make reasonable efforts to ensure their property is safe and free of hazards. If the property owner fails in this responsibility and their negligence leads to someone getting injured, they can be held liable.

To prove the property owner is at fault, the injured person must show:

  • The owner created the hazardous condition or knew about it but failed to fix it or warn visitors

  • The hazardous condition was not obvious or visible

  • The property owner failed to use reasonable care in maintaining the property

  • The hazardous condition directly caused the victim’s injuries

If these elements are proven, the property owner will likely be found negligent. However, Virginia follows contributory negligence doctrine, meaning even if the property owner was negligent, the victim cannot recover damages if they were also negligent in any way.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Slip and Fall in Virginia?

The statute of limitations for filing a slip and fall injury claim in Virginia courts is two years from the date of the accident. This means victims have two years to either settle their claim with the property owner’s insurance company or file a personal injury lawsuit.

Missing this deadline will make recovering compensation very difficult if not impossible. It is critical to begin the claims process as soon as possible before the two-year mark. An experienced slip and fall attorney can help preserve your rights and options.

Damages Available in Virginia Personal Injury Lawsuits

When someone is injured in an accident caused by another’s negligence, they can sue for compensation for their losses and damages. There are two main categories of damages that may be awarded.

Economic Damages

These cover tangible financial costs directly caused by the accident and injuries. They can include:

  • Medical bills from emergency care, hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation, physical therapy, medical devices, prescription medications, and other treatments

  • Lost income and wages from missing work during recovery

  • Loss of future earnings if there is permanent disability

  • Costs for household and childcare assistance the injured cannot perform themselves

Non-Economic Damages

These compensate for intangible losses and impacts on quality of life. Types of non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering – for physical pain from injuries and emotional distress

  • Loss of enjoyment of life – limitations on hobbies, activities, relationships

  • Disfigurement or scarring – from surgeries, wounds

  • Loss of consortium – impact on the intimate relationship with a spouse

What is Virginia’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury?

As with slip and fall cases, Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations for filing personal injury lawsuits seeking compensation for any type of accident caused by negligence.

This two-year clock starts ticking from the date of the injuring incident. Attempting to file a claim after this deadline will likely lead to the case being dismissed unless certain exceptions apply.

Consulting with a personal injury attorney can help get the process started in a timely manner to preserve legal rights. In some cases, it may be possible to settle directly with insurance companies without going to court.

Proving Fault in Slip and Fall Cases

To recover compensation in Virginia, the injured victim must prove the property owner failed in their responsibility to provide safe premises. Evidence that can demonstrate negligence includes:

Lack of Warning Signs

If there was a spill or other dangerous condition on the floor, the owner may be liable if they did not put out caution signs or barricades alerting visitors of the hazard.

Inadequate Lighting

Poor lighting can conceal tripping dangers and make hazards impossible to see. Property owners must provide adequate lighting in walkways, stairs, and other areas.

Lack of Handrails

Stairways and ramps must have proper handrails according to safety codes. Missing or broken handrails may indicate negligence.

Prior Accidents

If others have fallen due to the same hazard, it shows the property owner knew or should have known about the unsafe condition but failed to fix it.

Knowledgable Testimony

Engineers, building code specialists, and safety experts can provide opinions on whether the property failed to meet legal standards for safe premises. Their testimony can help prove negligence.

Speaking with an experienced Virginia slip and fall lawyer is the best way to determine what evidence may exist to prove liability and fault rests with the property owner. They can send investigators to the accident scene to preserve evidence and interview witnesses while facts are still fresh.

How Contributory Negligence Can Limit Compensation in Virginia

Virginia follows the doctrine of contributory negligence, which can bar an injury victim from any recovery if they are even 1% or more at fault for their accident. This is different from most other states which follow comparative negligence rules that allow victims to still recover reduced compensation based on their percentage of fault.

Here are some examples of how an injured person’s actions could be considered negligent, leading to no damages awarded under Virginia law:

  • Distracted walking – looking at a cell phone when the hazard could have been seen

  • Ignoring safety rules – crossing barriers or marked off unsafe areas

  • Unsafe footwear – wearing shoes with poor traction in rainy or icy conditions

  • Impaired judgment – slip and fall accidents while intoxicated

Even very minor errors in judgment can unfortunately destroy any chance of compensation for victims in Virginia. Having an attorney thoroughly investigate fault and build the strongest case is key. Settlements may still be possible in borderline cases if negligence can be proven against the property owner.

Typical Compensation in Virginia Slip and Fall Cases

The amount of damages awarded in successful Virginia slip and fall claims can vary substantially based on the severity of injuries, length of treatment and recovery time, the level of available evidence proving negligence, insurance coverage, and other factors. Some average settlement ranges include:

  • Minor sprains, bruises: $2,000 – $10,000

  • Fractures requiring casting: $10,000 – $30,000

  • Serious fractures with surgery needed: $30,000 – $75,000

  • Head injuries, back injuries, multiple fractures: $75,000 – $150,000+

  • Permanent disabilities: $150,000 – $500,000+

These amounts would be reduced if the injured person is found partially at fault due to contributory negligence. Because compensation varies so widely, it is essential to consult with an attorney to evaluate the full value of your specific claim. An experienced lawyer can aggressively negotiate the maximum settlement from the insurance company.

5 FAQs About Slip and Fall Injuries in Virginia

1. What if I was partly at fault for my slip and fall accident in Virginia?

You may receive reduced or no compensation due to contributory negligence laws if any negligence is found on your part. An attorney can help minimize findings of fault against you.

2. Should I report my Virginia slip and fall to the property owner?

Yes, report it immediately to management and request they preserve video footage if available. Get names and contact of witnesses. Prompt incident reports help prove notice and liability.

3. What if I was injured slipping on ice in Virginia?

Property owners can be liable if they failed to treat icy areas. However, liability may be limited if ice formed naturally and recently before the incident.

4. Can I still recover damages if I was not watching where I was going in Virginia?

Possibly, but distracted walking makes it harder to prove the property owner was solely at fault. An attorney can negotiate a settlement emphasizing the owner’s negligence.

5. How soon after my Virginia slip and fall should I contact a lawyer?

Contact a personal injury attorney immediately so they can start gathering evidence, documents, witness statements, and video footage before it is lost. This helps maximize compensation.

Speak with a Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Suffering serious injuries in a Virginia slip and fall accident can derail your life and leave you facing huge medical bills and lost income. Don’t wait to consult Altizer Law. We provide care and attention to each client. Call us today at 540-345-2000 for your free consultation.