A man walking on Jefferson Ave. in Newport News Saturday morning was hit by an SUV and died shortly thereafter. According to the Newport News Police, the man was walking southbound in the middle of the road in the 12,000 block of Jefferson Ave. around 2:00 a.m. on July 5. A woman driving a Ford Explorer hit him. Police arrived on the scene to find the man lying in the middle of the road. He had sustained life-threatening injuries and died at the scene.
The police department is investigating the accident, but a press release did note that that area of Jefferson Ave. is not well lit.
It is unclear why the man was walking in the middle of the road. There are certain places where pedestrians have a nearly absolute right of way; crosswalks and pedestrian/bike lanes are two examples. The middle of the road is not one of these places.
Unfortunately for the man’s family, the investigation might reveal that the SUV driver was not completely responsible for his death. His family is undoubtedly devastated by this sudden loss and may feel strongly that the driver who hit their loved one should be held at least partly accountable for his death.
Under Virginia law, a beneficiary is barred from pursuing a wrongful death action against the driver, even if their loved one was just 1% responsible for being hit and the driver was 99% responsible. Virginia follows the contributory negligence rule, which states that if a victim is even 1% responsible for the incident the victim contributed to it and cannot recover any damages. Some people call this a “but for” rule: but for the other party’s actions the person wouldn’t have been hurt.
Almost every other state follows the more sensible comparative negligence rule, under which an injured party who is partly to blame can still recover a percentage of damages. For example, if a pedestrian was 5% responsible for the fatal accident, his family could pursue a claim to recover 95% of the damages caused by his death.
Virginia’s contributory negligence standard prevents legitimate victims who are seriously injured by another person’s negligent actions from recovering for their injuries just because they can’t prove that 100% of the fault lies with the other party.
If you were seriously injured in an accident, don’t let the insurance company tell you you were partly to blame if you don’t think you were. Contact an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer to evaluate your unique circumstances and determine whether you have a potential claim.