What is the Difference Between Circuit Court and General District Court?

Virginia’s judicial system was established to ensure that legal conflicts are settled economically, fairly, and quickly. The modern court system in Virginia is comprised of four different levels of courts. In order of rank, these are the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, circuit courts, and general district courts. These courts are arranged into 31 judicial circuits and 32 similar judicial districts. Roughly 2,600 people, such as magistrates, clerks, and judges, are employed by the judicial branch of the United States government in order to provide residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia with fast and effective service.  

What separates a circuit court from a general district court?

Since you cannot compel an insurance provider to pay out a settlement for a personal injury claim, the only right a victim has is a trial in which they pursue a judgment against the at-fault party. Depending on the amount of damages being sought, the case will go through either the general district or circuit court. 

An experienced Virginia personal injury attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can explain which court or courts will hear your case and what you can expect as your case progresses. 

General District Courts 

The general district court system in Virginia is made up of both the juvenile and domestic relations district and general district courts. The state is divided up into 32 districts with a juvenile and domestic relations district court and a general district court in each district. 

General district courts preside over civil cases in which the damages are not more than $50,000. Civil cases can range from lawsuits for injuries and damages sustained in motor vehicle accidents to lawsuits filed by creditors in an attempt to collect an outstanding debt. In the Commonwealth, claims for less than $4,500 may only be initiated in a general district court. A separate division, known as small claims court, has jurisdiction over any civil lawsuit where the damages are less than $5,000. 

General district courts are also in charge of hearing cases that involve traffic violations. If convicted, the judge will impose an administrative fine and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will assign a certain number of points to the defendant’s driver’s license.  

Circuit Courts 

In Virginia, circuit courts are the only courts in which you are entitled to a jury trial.  

Virginia circuit courts have jurisdiction over:

Civil Actions in Circuit Court

  • Claims worth over $4,500 but not more than $50,000 
  • The legitimacy of a corporate bylaw or municipal or county ordinance 
  • Property disputes
  • Estate matters such as trusts and wills
  • Adoption proceedings 
  • Divorce proceedings 

Appeals in Circuit Court

  • Any appeals from the juvenile and domestic relations district court or the general district court 
  • Any appeals from an administrative agency

It will also oversee any case for which the Code of Virginia does not specify jurisdiction. 

Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp is the preeminent personal injury law firm in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area. If you or a member of your family were injured in a negligence-based accident, we will make sure that you understand your legal rights and advise you on a legal strategy that is in your best interests. We offer a free initial consultation to all potential clients and we never collect any money upfront. Talk to a Virginia personal injury attorney today by calling our law offices at (833) 997-1774. 

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