Virginia Courts: A Brief Overview

Author: Attorney David M. Williams, Jr.

As a Virginia personal injury trial attorney, I spend the majority of time in the circuit and district court levels. However, there are four (4) levels of courts in Virginia; here's a brief overview of the court system. The four levels of courts in Virginia are: the District Courts, the Circuit Courts, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court.

DISTRICT COURTS The District Courts are organized into thirty-two (32) districts and consist of two courts: the general district courts and the juvenile/domestic relations (JD&R) district courts. There is a General District Court and a JD & R District Court in every county and city. All cases at this level are heard…

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Are you responsible if your party guests drive drunk?

Social Host Liability

Beer, wine, Vodka, Scotch, Bourbon, Gin, mixers, glasses; everything is all ready for the party. The guests arrive and the house is filled with friends talking and laughing.

Then Uncle Fred shows up. Uh-oh. Uncle Fred is obviously intoxicated. He slides up to the bar and slurs out, 'I'll have a beer.'

What do you do? You know Uncle Fred drove himself to your house. You know he is planning to drive home. If you serve him more alcohol, are you responsible if Uncle Fred hurts himself in a car accident? Are you responsible if Uncle Fred hurts someone else in a crash?

The answer to these…

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Premises Liability: The Duties of a Store or Business Owner

Safety is a Legal Responsibility

Author: Attorney R. Clayton Allen

In the law, civil responsibility for one's actions is based on violating a duty. The duty can be created by a statute or by the common law. Statutes are written laws enacted by the legislature. The common law is the body of law that has been created over time based on earlier decisions by judges. In Virginia, the common law is based on laws originally developed in England. A business owner must look to both the statutes and the common law to determine the duties owed by a business owner to customers or clients who come on his business premises.

Statutes that set out the duties a business owner owes to his customers include laws containing building…

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Stop Texting and Keep Your Eyes On the Road - It's Soon To Be the Law

 Author: Attorney J. David Douthit

Distracted drivers. We've all seen them, doing things like talking on a cell phone, adjusting the radio, or reading the newspaper. Maybe we've even been one of them. In its most recent session, the Virginia General Assembly decided to take action against one form of distracted driving: drivers who are texting while driving.

Effective July 1, 2009, texting while driving will be a traffic infraction. Under Code of Virginia section 46.2-1078.1, it will be unlawful for anyone operating a motor vehicle on Virginia roads to use a cell phone, blackberry or similar device to email or text message another person or to read an email or text message while operating a motor…

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Head Injuries - You Can't Be Too Cautious

Author: Attorney Courtney Van Winkle

The caller ID on my cell phone showed the call was coming from the middle school. It was only 1 o'clock in the afternoon and my heart skipped a beat. I stepped out of a meeting to retrieve the call. As soon as I heard the nurse's voice, my son's name and the words head injury, my mind darted to the recent tragic death of Natasha Richardson. A brain injury with no immediate visible signs of injury claimed her life within days. I instantly thought of the many clients I've worked with who suffered traumatic brain injuries, the face of the 7-year-old boy struck by a van who still struggles, the doctor involved in a motorcycle accident who could no longer operate, and the mother of three…

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Don't Let The Insurance Company Pressure You Into Settling By Signing a Release Too Early

Article by Attorney Melinda H. South

Recently I received a call from a young man who had signed a Release to settle his personal injury claim. He wanted to know if he had any recourse. It turns out he had signed a Release only three weeks after his motor vehicle accident even though he was still in pain. He thought he would get better, so he accepted an offer of $750 cash plus $10,000 to pay for doctor visits incurred in the following 60 days only. Unfortunately, his pain worsened, and his doctor referred him to physical therapy. The young man completed therapy over the next two months, but he was still in pain. His doctor then referred him for an MRI of his shoulder which showed a full tear of the tendon that could only…

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Contributory Negligence: A Trap for the Unwary Claimant

It's often been said, and with good reason, that the contributory negligence defense is "an insurance company's dream" and plaintiff's "worst nightmare." Under the common law doctrine of contributory negligence, there is no comparison of fault between the wrongdoer and the injured person. If the injured person is even 1% at fault in a way that significantly contributes to cause the injury, the injured person loses. Technically, this prohibits an injured person from making a recovery from an accident claim even if the other person (the defendant) is 99% responsible for causing the accident.

For example, let's say that the defendant was driving on a one-way road the wrong way, and the plaintiff, a pedestrian, was walking…

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Virginia Boating Safety: New Required Operator Licenses and Education

Summary by: Robert L. Mertig

As summer approaches, it's important to be aware of recent changes in the boating laws in Virginia pertaining to the operation of personal water craft (PWC) such as Jet Skis and motorboats. These changes include a schedule of required licenses and boating safety instruction that begin to take effect this summer. Over the next few years, eventually all users of PWC will be required to have licenses and take courses to obtain these licenses.

By July 1, 2009, all operators younger than 21 and are operating a PWC of 10 horsepower or more will be required to have a license. If you have a PWC like this and are in this age group, you should sign up now for a class, so you get your license…

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Patient Tests Positive and Thousands Told To Get Tested After Exposure to Unsterilized Equipment at VA Hospitals

According to the Associated Press, The Veterans Affairs Department is investigating a possible link between patients testing positive for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C and the use of unsterilized equipment that may have caused thousands of veterans to be exposed to infectious diseases.

Initial tests show patients from VA medical facilities in Murfreeboro, Tennessee; Augusta, Georgia; and Miami, Florida have tested positive for HIV after being treated with endoscopic equipment that was not properly sterilized. The three sites all used endoscopic equipment manufactured by Olympus America, Inc. The problem may stem from neglecting to appropriately reprocess a specific auxiliary water tube, thus putting patients at risk…

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Defamation Liability and the case of Vicki Iseman v. The New York Times - A Recap

Author: Attorney W. Coleman Allen, Jr.

The tort of defamation occurs when an individual, corporation or media outlet negligently publishes a false statement concerning a private individual, or in the case of a public figure, publishes a false statement with malice. The higher standard that must be met with regard to a public figure reflects the court's efforts to balance the privacy rights of individuals with the First Amendment values that favor the free flow of information and robust debate of issues of public importance. In the case of Vicki Iseman v. The New York Times newspaper, the issue of whether or not the plaintiff Vicki Iseman was a public figure was central to the litigation.

The case was settled without…

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