Joint and Several Liability in Virginia Personal Injury Cases

A personal injury takes place when one party commits a malicious or negligent act that causes harm to another. Common personal injury accidents include car accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, wrongful death, and medical malpractice. 

What does it mean to be jointly and severally liable?

Victims of Virginia personal injury accidents are generally entitled to file a civil lawsuit or insurance claim for damages against the at-fault party. If, however, your accident was caused by more than one party, you can take legal action against all liable parties which enables you to recover 100% of your damages from one or all of the defendants. This legal theory is referred to as joint and several liability, and for nearly all forms of Virginia personal injuries, this legal doctrine applies. If you were injured in an accident involving multiple liable parties and have questions about joint and several liability and how it applies to your case, contact the experienced Virginia personal injury lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp today. 

Joint and Several Liability Defined

The legal doctrine of joint and several liability comes into play when more than one person or company is responsible for injuring someone.

Each person or company responsible for the injury is called a tortfeasor. Plaintiffs may sue tortfeasors in order to obtain financial compensation for damages. According to the rules of joint and several liability, any tortfeasor could be liable for covering up to 100% of the total compensation no matter whether that tortfeasor could potentially argue their part of the entire liability is less than another tortfeasor’s.

Should a tortfeasor wind up paying out more than their fair share of damages, they may seek contributions from the other co-defendants named in the lawsuit. Unfortunately, it is always a possibility that they will not be able to pay. 

The basic idea is that it is better for a single tortfeasor to bear 100% of the financial liability if the others are unable to pay than for an innocent victim to bear any uncompensated damages. 

Contributory Negligence

In many cases, multiple parties share fault for an accidental injury. Let’s say, for example, you are driving a car with a broken headlamp. As you pass through an intersection, another vehicle runs a stop sign and crashes into you. It is entirely possible that you will be found to have contributed to your own accident. Now, in most states, as long as your percentage of fault is less than the other party’s, you can still receive financial compensation for your damages although your award will be decreased by your percentage of fault. In the state of Virginia, if you are found to be even 1% at fault for your injuries, you will not be able to collect any financial recovery whatsoever. This is why it is always a good idea to work with an attorney who is well-acquainted with Virginia personal injury law and is able to prove the other person or persons involved are 100% responsible for your injuries. 

The Common Carrier Exception

One of the few circumstances in which the state’s contributory negligence laws do not apply is if you are injured by a common carrier, such as a plane, train, or bus that was violating a safety regulation at the time of the accident. In these instances, even if you did partly contribute to the accident, you could still be able to receive financial compensation for your injuries.  

Statute of Limitations

In Virginia, victims of fraud, defamation, or personal injury have two years to bring a lawsuit. In cases involving a breached contract, property damage, or trespass, the statute is extended to five years. If you attempt to file a lawsuit once the statute of limitations has expired, your case will be dismissed. This is another good reason to have a skilled Virginia personal injury lawyer on your side to ensure you meet all of the procedural requirements and necessary deadlines of your Virginia personal injury claim. 

Joint and Several Liability Law

In Virginia, if multiple parties are responsible for your injury, joint and several liability laws could apply. Speaking with a qualified attorney who understands the nuances of Virginia personal injury law is the first step toward collecting the compensation you deserve. If you would like to speak with an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer, fill out the simple contact form on our website or call (833) 997-1774.

Related Content