If you are an accident victim in Virginia who has suffered soft tissue injuries and minimal property damage, filing a personal injury case in a general district court is the fastest and least expensive option available for you to recover damages from the liable party.
The Jurisdiction of a General District Court in Virginia
Section 16.1-77 of the Code of Virginia states that general district courts have exclusive jurisdiction over personal injury cases where the value of the claim does not exceed $4,500 (exclusive of interest). They have concurrent jurisdiction – which they share with circuit courts – over personal injury cases where the value of the claim is greater than $4,500, but does not exceed $25,000 (exclusive of interest).
The Benefits of Filing Your Personal Injury Case in a General District Court
The process of filing a personal injury case in a general district court is quite simple. You need to fill out a form, which is called a Warrant in Debt, and pay the filing fee. The filing fee is much lower compared to what you have to pay in a circuit court.
You are required to provide the following details while filing your case.
- Your name and address
- The liable party’s name and address
- The reason for filing the case (injuries and/or property damage)
- The amount you seek from the liable party
- The return date or the hearing date (the date on which you and the liable party are required to appear in court)
On the return date, the plaintiff (yourself) and the defendant (the liable party) must pick a date for a trial.
If, for some reason, the defendant fails to appear in court on the return date, you can request the court to enter judgment in your favor. If, on the other hand, you fail to appear in court on the return date, the court might dismiss the case.
Bill of Particulars and Grounds of Defense
On the return date, the judge might ask you (the plaintiff) to file a Bill of Particulars, in which you can explain the specifics of your lawsuit. Similarly, the judge might ask the liable party (the defendant) to file a Grounds of Defense, in which they can respond to your claims and allegations.
The Bill of Particulars is typically filed first, followed by the Grounds of Defense, which is usually filed on a different date.
What Happens at the Trial Proceedings?
The trial proceedings in a general district court are generally less formal compared to a circuit court.
First, your attorney is required to make an opening statement, in which they must provide a short summary of your claims. They should then submit the documents that support your claims of injuries and/or property damage. They should also call witnesses – if any – to testify in support of your claims.
Once you rest your case, the defendant is required to make a statement and present their defenses.
Upon hearing the arguments from both sides, the judge will enter judgment – either in favor of you or in favor of the defendant.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of filing your personal injury lawsuit in a general district court is that you are not required to bring in expert witnesses to testify. Instead, you can produce a sworn affidavit (from the physician who treated you) to authenticate your claims regarding the nature and extent of the injuries you suffered in the accident and the cost of treating the same.
Similarly, if you are seeking compensation from the defendant for property damage, you can submit photographs that show the extent of damage caused to your vehicle or property, along with an appraisal or itemized estimate.
The process of submitting a sworn affidavit is a lot easier, faster, and cheaper than getting expert witnesses to testify in person. This is why personal injury attorneys in Virginia often encourage accident victims to file a lawsuit in a general district court – as opposed to a circuit court – if they are seeking $25,000 or less in damages.
Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys in Virginia
The trial attorneys of Shapiro, Appleton, & Washburn have represented countless accident victims in general district courts as well as circuit courts and recovered compensatory damages ranging from a few thousands to millions of dollars.
If you are seeking less than $25,000 in damages, we can file your case in a general district court and use the resources at our disposal to bring the case to a successful conclusion in a timely manner. In case you are not satisfied with the general district court’s verdict or if you are seeking more than $25,000 in damages, we can file your case in a circuit court and recover an appropriate amount of compensatory damages.
You can call us on 800-752-0042 for a free and confidential consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys.