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Virginia Small Claims Car, Truck and Motorcycle Accident Limit Increases by $10K

Virginia general district court rules are set to change in a way that benefits victims of car, small truck and motorcycle accidents. As of July 1, 2011, the small claims courts will be authorized to hear civil lawsuits -- the kind filed in car crashes, truck wrecks and motorcycle accidents that cause non-life-threatening injuries -- in which victims seek compensation up to $25,000. Previously, the lower-level courts in each Virginia (VA) city and county could only hear cases involving claims for reimbursement of medical treatment costs, lost wages and pain and suffering that amounted to $15,000.

The more generous definition of "small claims" in the Commonwealth was endorsed by unanimous votes in both the House of Delegates and the Senate of the Virginia General Assembly. Gov. Bob McDonnell signed H.B. 1590 into law on February 25, 2011.

I commend the VA state delegates and senators for having made this change, which will benefit people injured in traffic accidents in cities like Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Hampton, Richmond, Bristol, Alexandria and counties such as Accomack, Northampton, Montgomery and Buchanan. In addition to increasing accident victims' access to courts, $25,000 matches the minimum amount of automobile insurance coverage drivers and private vehicle owners in Virginia must carry.

small claims car accident truck crash motorcycle wreck virginia general distrct courtThe rule, then, makes sense because many small to medium-sized injury cases can be handled in general district courts, where it is faster and easier to resolve car wreck injury cases. The typical case can reach a verdict or settlement within 90 days when handled in the lower court.

As a personal injury lawyer for more than two decades, it is my belief that this law will force insurance companies to more reasonably settle some of my clients' cases because they know they cannot drag out claims processing for a year or more in circuit courts. In the circuit court you can sue for an unlimited amount and get a jury rather than just a judge decision maker. Sometimes, a general district court makes more sense for car accident injury clients.

Even many insurance defense lawyers agree that this is a more efficient way to handle cases in which the personal injury is not permanent and involved outpatient treatments like an emergency room visit with X-rays followed by family doctor visits, an orthopedic doctor evaluation and physical therapy or chiropractic care. Under the old rule, sometimes the case was of a value just between $15,000 and $25,000, making whether to stay in the general district court and give up on the possibility of getting more money than the lower court could award a very hard decision.

I expect my fellow VA car, truck and motorcycle accident injury lawyers will be filing lots of suits in the general district courts in cities like Chesapeake, Suffolk, Newport News and Hampton, Virginia, in the near future.

John C., Esquire
"All We Do Is Injury Law"


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