Virginia is one of only a handful of states that applies contributory negligence. Under contributory negligence, if you hurt in a car accident, you are barred from recovery if you contributed to the accident at all. That means if the person that hit you is 99% at fault, but you are only 1% at fault, you can't collect any money from the negligent party.
Contributory negligence can have a huge impact on your claim. If you've been in an accident and there is some speculation that you may be at fault, the insurance company will fight the claim. In large accident cases where there is a lot of money on the line, the insurance company will do a thorough investigation of the details surrounding the accident. Any statement you made after your accident will be dissected, and if you said anything that shows you were partially at fault, they will use that information to deny your claim.
You should also think about how this applies to small accident cases. If someone dings your car at a stop light because you stopped too far into the intersection, the insurance company may deny your property damage claim because you contributed to the conditions that caused the accident. Fortunately, the insurance company is generally more concerned with large accidents that have a high price tag.
If you’ve not been in an accident, you still need to keep Virginia’s contributory negligence law in mind. The purpose of the law is to encourage safe driving. So for those of you that speed, text while driving, don’t always look both ways, or whatever the case may be, there may be more at risk than a simple traffic ticket. If you (or your family or friends) were to be hurt in an accident, your driving behavior will be seriously scrutinized to determine if you were 1% at fault.
And for you podcast listeners, contributory negligence was recently discussed on The Kojo Nnamdi Show.