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Virginia Supreme Court Finds No Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Case

A motorcycle driver who was injured when he was hit by an SUV that turned into his lane will get another chance to win damages from the crash after a majority in the Virginia Supreme Court rejected a jury instruction on contributory negligence, reports Virginia Lawyers Weekly.

The court found that it takes a little more than a "scintilla" (a tiny spark or trace of proof) for a personal injury defendant to tell the jury that the plaintiff was at least partially at fault for the accident.

Here, the driver of the SUV and defendant in the pending case had to produce more than a "scintilla" of proof that the motorcycle driver was partially at fault in the crash, but was unable to do so according to the Supreme Court. The defendant failed to prove that the plaintiff's actions leading up to the accident were a proximate cause of the crash, which is one of the essential elements in a contributory negligence case.

Contributory negligence, however slight, is a bar to recovery in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. personal injury cases. Contributory negligence is the legal doctrine which provides that a plaintiff's negligence, no matter how slight, that contributes in some way to her injuries, no matter the extent of the negligence of the Defendant, bars the plaintiff from recovery for those injuries. A vast majority of states apply the doctrine of comparative negligence instead of contributory negligence, which compares the fault of the parties to the case, and reduces the injured party's recovery by their own percentage of fault. However, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. continue to follow the legal doctrine of contributory negligence.