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Overview of Virginia Personal Injury Litigation

If you are a personal injury victim in Virginia, chances are you will eventually face the decision of whether to settle your claim out of court or bring a personal injury action against the negligent party to court. An experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer can provide knowledge and support to help you make that decision and to help you navigate the trial process should you decide to proceed to court.

Personal injury claimants who take their case to court are referred to as Plaintiffs throughout the litigation and the negligent party is referred to as the defendant. Even though the lawsuit individually names the defendant, their insurance company continues to represent them and who is ultimately responsible for paying the Plaintiff for his/her damages.

Where can a personal injury action be filed?

Virginia Plaintiffs generally have the option to file suit in the county court where the accident occurred or in the county where the defendant resides. If the defendant resides in a different county than where your accident took place, your attorney will explain your options and determine which jurisdiction will likely result in a more favorable outcome.

The next decision will be whether to file your case in the lower-level trial court, General District Court, or in the Circuit Court, which is the higher-level trial court. The best choice here will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your case. Your attorney will look at the economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity) and non-economic damages (pain, suffering, and the existence of any permanent injury) in making the decision to file in either court.

Personal injury trials in the General District Courts are bench trials, meaning they are held in front of a judge as opposed to a jury. This means that the Judge who hears your case will decide on factual issues regarding liability and the value of your damages based on his/her evaluation of the evidence presented.

The lower courts also have limited jurisdiction with respect to damages in personal injury actions. Currently, the maximum award in these courts can give is $25,000. Beginning July 1, 2021, the General District Courts will have increased jurisdiction to hear cases with damages up to $50,000.

This is fantastic news for personal injury victims because it will provide a more timely and accessible path to reasonable compensation for their injuries. Personal injury litigation in the General District Courts of Virginia is less expensive and less time-intensive for Plaintiffs (already in an overwhelmed and vulnerable state) than it is in the Circuit Courts.

In the lower-level courts, the parties do not participate in any formal discovery or information exchange as there is in the Circuit Court. After initiating the lawsuit by filing the appropriate pleadings in court, the Plaintiff will provide insurance counsel with all certified medical records and bills related to his or her treatment from the accident. So long as the correct certificates accompany Plaintiff’s medical records and bills, the Plaintiff can present his or her records and bills as evidence without having a medical expert present.

In Virginia Circuit Courts, personal injury Plaintiffs will have their trial in front of a jury. This means that your attorney and defense counsel will select a jury panel that will ultimately decide liability disputes and your financial recovery.

Plaintiffs in Circuit Court should expect to participate in discovery. Discovery is the fact-finding phase of litigation used by both Plaintiff and Defense Counsel to prepare their respective cases for trial. This can feel overwhelming, but an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney will be with you every step of the way.

The Virginia Rules allow each party to ask the other up to 30 questions regarding the accident, the Plaintiff’s medical history and the specific damages claimed from the accident. These questions are formally referred to as Interrogatories.

Personal injury Plaintiffs in Circuit Court are also often required to sit for oral depositions with defense counsel. The purpose of a deposition is to flesh out or elaborate on the information provided in written discovery. Preparation for a deposition is incredibly important, as it can be a great opportunity to demonstrate the strength of your case to the insurance counsel and push your case closer to settlement.

In either court, your attorney will carefully review and organize your medical records and/or discovery obtained or provided with you to ensure that you are prepared to effectively testify at trial.

The Bottom Line

Personal injury litigation is complicated, but you are not alone. An experienced and knowledgeable Virginia personal injury attorney will guide you through the litigation process, help you make informed decisions as your case progresses and ensure that you are getting a fair shot at the compensation you deserve.