In a negligence action, a plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff; the defendant breached their duty; the defendant’s breach of that duty was the proximate cause of the injury and the plaintiff suffered damages.
Assumption of Risk
In Virginia, a plaintiff is barred from recovery if he or she assumed the risk of injury as seen in Thurmond v. Prince William Professional Baseball Club, 574 S.E.2d 246, 249 (2003). For the assumption of risk doctrine to be successful as an affirmative defense, the defendant must prove that the plaintiff must have had full knowledge of the obvious danger and voluntarily exposed themselves to the risk.
Pure Contributory Negligence
Virginia is one of the few states that follow a pure contributory negligence standard in negligence actions. Pure contributory negligence completely bars a plaintiff from monetary recovery if the plaintiff contributed in any way to their injury, even if the defendant’s conduct was far more negligent than the plaintiff’s. This means that even if the percentage of fault attributed to the plaintiff was as little as 1%, recovery is barred.
Joint & Several Liability
In Virginia, tortfeasors are jointly and severally liable for damages issued by a court. This means that in an action where multiple defendants are found to have been liable for a plaintiff’s injury, all parties are potentially fully responsible for paying the damages awarded by the court. For example, if Defendant A was found to be 1% responsible for the plaintiff’s injury and Defendant B was 99% responsible, the plaintiff has the right to collect the full amount of damages from Defendant A, despite the fact that they were found to have only been 1% responsible. This method of recovery protects the plaintiff in the event that one or more parties to the lawsuit are found to be insolvent.
Where one defendant has paid more than their proportional share of liability that defendant has the right to seek contribution against any other joint defendant who has not paid its proportional share.
Compensatory damages are awarded by a Court to compensate the plaintiff for injuries suffered as a result of the negligence of the defendant(s). The award is meant to restore the plaintiff – as much as possible – to the condition they were in prior to the injury occurring.
Compensatory damages include :
- Consideration for the extent and duration of the injury
- Physical pain and emotional distress
- Medical expenses
- Loss of earnings
Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant rather than to compensate the plaintiff. Under Virginia law, to recover punitive damages, the plaintiff must prove willful and wanton negligence or malice on the part of the defendant. However, Virginia law, unlike the law in many other states, does not require proof of actual malice to obtain an award for punitive damages.
Virginia law limits the amount of a punitive damages award to no more than $350,000 in all cases.
The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.
By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Virginia. Should you have a question/concern specific to Virginia law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Virginia.