How to File a Personal Injury Claim in VA
Dedicated local attorneys take you through every step of the process
The law does not require you to hire an attorney to file a lawsuit. However, as the amount in controversy increases, so does the need for professional representation. An experienced lawyer knows how to avoid costly errors and how to maximize the amount you can recover. Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban charges no upfront attorney fees for injury case, so you can consult with one of our attorneys before making any decision about how to pursue your case.
Choosing the court with jurisdiction over your case
A court’s jurisdiction means two things: its authority to decide a particular type of case (subject matter jurisdiction) and its power to compel a party to answer and appear (personal jurisdiction). You must file your complaint in the proper court.
Since state law governs personal injury and wrongful death cases, most of these go to state court. The exception is when a defendant does not have any attachment to the state and moves the case to federal court. The Virginia state court system has several levels. You must select a trial court from among the following:
- General district court — Exclusive up to $4,500.
- General district court & Circuit court — Concurrent jurisdiction $4,500-$25,000.
- Circuit court — Exclusive over $25,000.
Once you have selected the level of the court that has subject matter jurisdiction, you must choose the particular court that can exercise personal jurisdiction. The general district courts are divided into 32 districts; the circuit court is divided into 31 circuits. You must file in the district or circuit where the injury event took place or where the defendant resides.
Additional considerations when filing your lawsuit
Once you have found your court, you can get the necessary papers from the clerk. The important considerations at this stage include:
- Naming the defendant — In most cases you will know the person or persons you suspect that are responsible for your injuries. However, if you are dealing with a person you never met before the accident, you should take prudent steps to ascertain that you have the correct name, correct spelling and correct address. If you are coming up against the statute of limitations and you still don’t know who is responsible for your injuries, you can file against a “John Doe” defendant, with a statement that when the true identity is determined, you will amend the complaint. You should not limit the defendants to those whom you presume are liable. Review Virginia’s liability laws to see if other actors might also be responsible for your losses.
- Drafting the complaint — Your complaint must state a cause of action. In short, you must state facts which, if true, indicate that:
- A person with a duty to act carefully
- Breached that duty by acting negligently, recklessly or deliberately
- The negligent, reckless or deliberate act injured you
- Your injuries are real and compensable
Your complaint also must contain a certain dollar amount of compensation, itemized as separate damages.
- Serving the defendant — Your filing is not complete until you serve notice on the defendant and record that service with the court. The court can arrange for a sheriff or high constable to serve your defendants for a modest fee.
Mistakes at this stage can cost you more than the price of filing. Your case against a defendant could be dismissed with prejudice, meaning you can’t refile, and you’ve lost your right to compensation.
Let an experienced Virginia attorney answer your questions about liability law
When representing a personal injury claim, there is no substitute for experience. At Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, we manage your case efficiently to deliver the best possible outcome. Take advantage of a free consultation with a knowledgeable, local attorney, by calling (888) 351-1038 or contacting our office online.