Virginia Personal Injury Law
Statutes of Limitations:
The amount of time you have to sue whoever caused your injury or damage.
- Personal Injury - 2 years
- Damage to Personal Property - 5 years
- Medical malpractice - 2 years
- Legal malpractice - 2 years
- Other professional malpractice - 2 years
Where to Sue:
- Personal injury claims under $5,000 - Virginia Small Claims Court (a division of General District Court)
- Personal injury claims between $4,500 and $15,000 - Virginia General District Court or Virginia Circuit Court
- Personal injury claims over $15,000 - Virginia Circuit Court
How to Sue:
Small Claims Court:
- Forms: Civil Complaint, Warrant in Debt - Small Claims Division (Form DC-402) [link to Warrant in Debt, and Civil Summons. You can also obtain these forms from the clerk of a Virginia General District Court, Small Claims Division.
- Where to file: With the clerk of the small claims division of the General District Court where the defendant resides, transacts substantial business, has his place of employment, or where the injury occurred.
- How to notify the defendant (service): A sheriff, deputy, or person 18 years or older may personally deliver service to the defendant at his usual place of abode. Virginia has a descendible statute for service of process. The process server must attempt to serve the defendant personally before attempting to serve him by registered or certified mail or by publication.
- Proving the defendant was notified: The person serving process must make return of service to the clerk's office within 72 hours of serving process. If the person serving process is a private process server and not a sheriff, the process server must file the return of service under oath (affidavit)
- Attorneys: Legal representation is not permitted in Virginia General District Court.
- Appealing a small claim: By either side for a claim worth more than $50 to a Virginia Circuit Court.
Virginia Circuit Court: Seek the advice of a Virginia personal injury attorney before filing your suit. Filing a personal injury case in Virginia can be a complex process. If you misfile your case, you may have your claim dismissed, lose your case, or even receive a fine from the court for certain types of errors during discovery and at other points in the case.
- Forms: Cover Sheet for Filing Civil Complaint, Civil Complaint; Civil Summons. The Civil Summons will be issued by a Virginia Circuit Court Clerk when you file your Civil Complaint with a Virginia Circuit Court.
- How to File: File your Civil Complaint with a Virginia Circuit Court clerk. The clerk will stamp the Civil Complaint and Civil Summons prior to their service on the defendant.
- How to Notify the Defendant: The defendant should be personally served by a sheriff, deputy, or a non-party over the age of 18.
What to Do if You Are Being Sued:
- Time to respond to a Summons in Virginia: 21 days.
- Contact a lawyer.
- If the party suing was injured at your place of employment or residence, contact your insurance company. Your insurance company may provide you with legal representation.
What to Do if a Judgment Was Entered Against You:
If you do not serve an answer to the plaintiff's complaint in Virginia within 21 days of receiving service, a default judgment may be entered against you. You will be deemed to owe the plaintiff whatever they claimed you owed in the complaint.
- Time to Set Aside a Judgment in Virginia:
- A Virginia Circuit Court can set aside a judgment for mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect, or newly discovered evidence for 21 days after the entry of judgment
- A Virginia Circuit Court can set aside a default judgment for fraud up to 2 years after entry of the initial judgment
- A Virginia Circuit Court can rule beyond the 21 day period if there has been a clerical mistake, or if the judgment is void
- If you are subject to a default judgment, contact an attorney.
Ways to Collect Your Judgment:
- If you win your personal injury lawsuit in Virginia and the defendant fails to pay, you have several options. If you want to collect your judgment from the debtor's personal property, you can file a Writ of Fieri Facias (Writ of Execution). In the Virginia General District Court you can file this Writ of Execution at any time after the judgment. In Virginia Circuit Court after 21 days the clerk will issue a Writ of Execution at the judgment creditor's request. Alternatively, you can file a Writ of Garnishment to garnish the debtor's bank account or wages, or have a lien placed on the debtor's real property.
- Obtain the advice of a Virginia debt collection attorney for help in collecting your judgment.