In wrongful death accidents, those left behind face a higher hurdle than in most other states. In many cases, it is very difficult to prove that the other party was 100% responsible for the accident, and yet that is what is demanded by Virginia law. Virginia still holds to contributory fault doctrines; this means that if the victim is even 1% to blame for the accident, then they cannot recover damages, including compensation for medical bills or lost wages.
Many would argue that this isn’t fair; why should someone who was 99% responsible for any accident, let alone a fatal accident, be able to avoid paying compensation to the victim or victim’s family? Most states would agree and their laws reflect that; however, it’s necessary that any Virginia case be won or lost in accordance with Virginia laws.
Insurance Companies Love Virginia’s Contributory Negligence Rule
Insurance companies in Virginia have an almost automatic response to any accident that could cost them a lot of money: they will claim that the victim was partly to blame for the accident, regardless of what really happened. This shifts the burden of the proof to the victim, who must prove that the accident was 100% the fault of the defendant.
This changes somewhat if there are multiple defendants, in respect that the other defendants might be found to share responsibility. For example, one defendant might be found 70% responsible while the other was held only 30% responsible. However, what is unchanged is that the victim must be 0% responsible for the accident.
In wrongful death accidents, the victim can’t tell the court what happened, it may be necessary to reconstruct the accident; this is somewhat like the “CSI” stuff seen on TV, only much more complicated. Experts will begin with the facts that are known about the accident, such as where the vehicles finally stopped, and work backward to figure out exactly what happened. This requires a considerable amount of data gathering and scientific analysis. The insurance company, of course, will have a different story to tell, so it’s crucial to make as strong a presentation as possible.
Dulaney Lauer & Thomas LLP is a law firm with only one focus – fighting for the rights of accident victims. They understand what is required for a successful outcome in Virginia. If you lost a loved one because of another’s carelessness, call for a free consultation today.
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