If there’s one thing I learned when dealing with my previous accident, it’s that the legal system for personal injury is stacked against the plaintiff. So let’s say I relate:
When a person is the victim of an accident that causes an injury, the main focus at the time is to get better. Depending on the severity of the accident this can take many months or even years. Unfortunately, a person only has so much time to file a claim for damages in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Virginia Code § 8.01-243 states that, under the current statute of limitations, an action for personal injuries must be filed with the court within two years of when the accident took place. The amount of time is even less for those who have been injured by a city-owned vehicle. In addition, if the lawsuit is against a government entity, special procedural rules apply. These rules require that a person first provide the government with a formal notice that provides information on the accident and the location and date of the accident.
If a person is filing a claim against the Virginia Government, he or she has one year to file a formal notice. However, a person who plans on filing a claim against a city or town must provide notice within six months. This means that a person must quickly compile and file formal documentation during a time that their mobility may be extremely limited. More specifically, victims must be able to find an attorney, prepare a claim and file it — all within six months of the date of the accident. For someone who is bedridden, this can be nearly impossible.
Once the notice is filed, the government will then have the opportunity to decide whether they would like to settle the case or allow it to proceed to court. As the current statute of limitations stands, the Commonwealth is at a clear advantage over those whom they have injured. It begs the question of whether it is fair for Virginia to have such an advantage over those who have suffered and may continue to suffer at their hand.
According to Patrick Rooney, a personal injury attorney in Fairfax, “In pursuing Claims against the Commonwealth, injured parties must serve a written Notice of Claim on the Common Wealth within one year, as a condition precedent to bringing a lawsuit. In light of this short time frame, it is absolutely in a person’s best interests to contact a personal injury attorney quickly if they have been injured in an accident caused by a government employee.”
It remains to be seen if these statutes of limitations will ever be modified to be less skewed, so in the meantime, it benefits victims of accidents to be as proactive as possible when filing a claim—even when injuries make that difficult.