The General District Court (GDC) usually handles civil matters that are less than $25,000 in value. These limits were set by the General Assembly over a decade ago. Senate Bill 1108 first introduced by William Stanley Jr. is seeking to get these limits changed again. Senate and the House passed the bill in 2021.
From July 1st, 2021, onwards, jurisdictional limits for civil matters in General District Courts in Virginia are raised from $25,000 to $50,000. Some exceptions where this increase will not apply include claims:
- To specific personal property
- To a fine, debt, or other money
- To compensation for breach of contract
- For property damage, real or personal
For plaintiffs involved in personal injury cases, these changes in the General District Court’s limits and appealing procedures are significant.
How Does the Increase in Virginia’s General District Court Jurisdictional Limits Benefit the Plaintiff?
Earlier, a victim seeking compensation of more than $25,000 for their personal injuries needed to file a case in Circuit Court. Though there is no jurisdictional limit in Circuit Court, there are other disadvantages like the higher costs to fight a case, long wait for a trial date, and uncertainty in terms of juries.
Keeping all this in mind, the General District Court’s jurisdictional limit increase comes as good news for those seeking up to $50,000 as compensation for their personal injuries in an accident. Let us discuss these benefits to the plaintiff further:
Fighting a case in the General District Court works out substantially cheaper than filing one in a Circuit Court. Under Virginia Code § 16.1-88.2, the plaintiff can submit medical records to the judge in General District Court, with a relevant affidavit. These records are a critical part of the evidence needed to establish the nature and extent of your personal injuries.
On the other hand, in a Circuit Court, where this code is not applicable, you would require the help of a medical expert who needs to testify to confirm the veracity of your claimed injury, its causes, and the necessity of the treatment rendered.
Depending on the nature and severity of your injury you might need to call several experts, and their testimonies could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars. The increase in Virginia’s General District Court jurisdictional limit is thus an excellent way to cut down on court-related expenses.
Typically, the time taken from filing a lawsuit to the trial date in Circuit Court is almost a year. On the other hand, fighting a personal injury case in General District Court usually takes almost half of that time or even less.
General District Court has limited discovery which neither subjects the victim to a defense medical investigation nor requires them to take depositions. This prevents the defendant’s insurance company from prying into plaintiff’s previous medical records to come up with something they can use in the trial.
Virginia General District Court cases have no jury. Juries bring unpredictability to the case, with each juror adding their own bias to the final verdict. Judges, on the other hand, are likely to keep their prejudices aside and apply the law in its true letter and spirit.
Insurance Companies and The New Bill
All parties involved in a court case have the right to appeal to the Circuit Court in case of an adverse verdict in General District Court. Defendants must post a bond equivalent to the verdict amount to be able to appeal. However, insurance companies only need to furnish a letter stating there is sufficient coverage to meet the judgment amount.
This changes on July 1st, 2021. Insurance companies will now need to post a bond not exceeding their coverage limits. This will put an end to the practice of insurers not settling and trying to drag the case to delay paying up.Earlier an insurance company could appeal to the Circuit Court and delay the payment for almost a year; but the change in the law would deter them from appealing so readily.
COVID-19 and the New Bill
Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent multiple lockdowns have put many lawsuits in limbo, resulting in a substantial backlog of cases at General District Courts and Circuit Courts. The new bill has the potential to relieve some of the pressure on Circuit Courts as more victims will file lawsuits in GDC, thanks to the increased jurisdictional limits.
Seek Proficient Legal Help to Understand How the New Bill Can Benefit You as A Plaintiff
The enhancement of jurisdictional limits is great news for plaintiffs, once it comes into effect on July 1st, 2021.
If you, or a loved one, is a victim of an accident due to someone else’s negligence, contact our skillful attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, who have substantial experience in filing and fighting lawsuits in both the General District Courts and Circuit Courts in Virginia. We are here to help you navigate through the maze of old and upcoming laws and protect your interests to the fullest.
Call us today at (833) 997-1774 or contact us online to schedule a free and confidential consultation.