Virginia is one of the handfuls of states that maintain the archaic, strict, pure contributory negligence rule. Under this model, Virginia law prohibits injury victims from recovering after an accident if they maintain any responsibility for their injuries or damages. Unless the other party is 100% responsible for the accident, a Virginia accident victim cannot recover for their damages. There are certain exceptions to the statute, such as the common carrier exception and Virginia’s seat belt statute. Under the common carrier exception, an injury victim may be entitled to compensation against a bus company and bus driver, if those parties violated a safety code.
Barring a few exceptions, VA Code § 46.2- 1094 requires drivers and front-seat passengers over 18-years-old to wear seat belts while in a vehicle traveling on a public highway. The law imposes a civil fine on those that violate this statute. Defendants often attempt to use non-seat belt use as evidence of contributory negligence. However, VA Code § 46.2- 1094, specifically contravenes this argument. Although, Virginia’s strict contributory negligence laws would typically bar a victim from recovery if they violated a safety statute and contributed to their injuries, the statute expressly provides that a violation of the statute, “shall not constitute negligence, be considered in mitigation of damages of whatever nature, be admissible in evidence or be the subject of comment by counsel in any action for the recovery of damages arising out of the operation, ownership, or maintenance of a motor vehicle.”
Although the statute provides this exception to Virginia’s contributory negligence laws, it is crucial that motorists and passengers wear a seat belt. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that seat belt use can reduce an individual’s likelihood of serious injuries by close to 50%. However, Virginia residents continue to choose not to wear seat belts. This fact is startling when taken in combination with data that found that over half of the people involved in fatal Virginia traffic accidents were not wearing a seat belt.
Even though seat belt use cannot be used against an injury victim, insurance companies will often use this evidence to lower potential settlement amounts. Additionally, companies and at-fault parties may claim that the injury victim was distracted, speeding, or otherwise contributed to the accident. It is critical that Virginia accident victims contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.
Have You Suffered Injuries in a Virginia Car Accident?
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries or died in a Virginia car accident, contact the attorneys at Robinson Law. The attorneys at our law firm understand how difficult car accident cases can be for an injury victim. We use our vast skills, resources, and tools to ensure our clients receive top-notch representation in their claims. We have successfully represented and resolved cases on behalf of our clients for injuries related to motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and defective products. Through our representation, clients have recovered significant amounts of compensation for their damages. Contact our office at 703-649-4500 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.