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Doug Landau
Doug Landau
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An Illogical Law: Virginia’s Outdated System of Contributory Negligence

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Virginia law is riddled with absurd legislation: Children may not go trick- or- treating on Halloween. Police radar detectors are illegal. It is outlawed to tickle women. Though we at the Landau Law Shop in Herndon are not particular advocates of any of these brilliant pieces of legislation, there is one Virginia law that is not only very illogical, but also repugnant on a personal level. This law, one of the most controversial laws that still exist in Virginia, is that of contributory negligence.

Contributory negligence is an outdated arbitrary way of cheating injured people out of receiving their due reparations. How it works is that if a person is decided in court to be even 1 percent responsible for an accident that was 99 percent the other’s fault, the former would not be able to recover any damages from the defendant. It is a complete bar to any recovery from a negligent driver, dog owner, maintenance company or product manufacturer. The law makes it possible for insurance companies to seek out obscure reasons to not compensate the victims of car crashes, dog attacks and other negligence by their insureds, such as failure to honk at a car that sideswiped them or failure to slam on the brakes before another car slammed into theirs. This law is in existence in only four states now, having been outlawed already in many others. It has been on Herndon injury lawyer Doug Landau’s "to do" list since 1985 to have this unjust system changed to a more reasonable system of “Comparative Fault.”

A system of comparative fault (practiced by most US states) works by deciding the percentage of fault of the parties. The verdict is then reduced by the fault, if any, of the injured victim. If the the verdict is for $150,000 and the disabled plaintiff is found to be 10% at fault, then the judgment is reduced to $135,000. This way, an injured person will not be left high and dry without compensation for what has been takenb from them by the defendant’s negligence. This change is already being sought in North Carolina with Bill HB 813. Everyone at the Herndon law firm ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. is hopeful that a bill will be brought in the Virginia legislature to rid this Commonwealth of this antiquated and unfair law.