On July 1, 2021, pursuant to Virginia Code Section 16.1-77, Virginia increased the amount an injury victim can sue for in the General District Court from $25,000 to $50,000. At Abrenio Law, we believe this is true progress for injury victims and will allow for swifter, fairer resolutions for a lot of cases.
This article will explore some of the benefits of filing in the General District Court (as opposed to the Circuit Court.)
Increasing the limit from $25,000 to $50,000 allows for more flexibility.
To be clear, $25,000 is a lot of money. However, the cost of healthcare is high. And incurring high medical bills is common for even “soft tissue” and non-complex injury cases. What’s more, accident injuries often lead to other damages such as lost wages, pain, suffering and inconvenience. (Click here to learn more about the damages you can claim in Virginia courts.)
Given the higher limit of $50,000, many cases that previously had to be filed in the Circuit Court can now be filed in the General District Court.
You get to court faster in the General District Court.
Typically, you will obtain a trial date much more quickly in the General District Court. As opposed to waiting 9 months to over a year in the Circuit Court, you can typically expect to see a trial date in General District Court anywhere from four (4) to seven (7) months.
At Abrenio Law, we can tell you that insurance companies enjoy delays in trial dates. Over time, injury victims grow fatigued by the delay, which makes them more likely to settle for less money. As time marches on, evidence is lost, witnesses disappear, and memories fade, which all benefit the insurance companies.
So, getting a quicker trial date benefits an injury victim as they will see a much quicker resolution of their claim.
Trials are cheaper in General District Court.
It’s less expensive to pursue cases in the General District Court. That’s mainly because it’s easier to present medical evidence through Virginia Code Section 16.1-88.2. Under this statute, assuming certain conditions are met, injury victims can present their injuries through medical records or reports rather than spending to hire doctors to testify.
This is a huge cost saver and makes for more efficient trials. Often, the most expensive aspect of litigating an injury case is the need to hire expert witnesses (doctors) to explain your injuries. Spending $10,000 to $15,000 (and more) is not uncommon. So, being able to present an injury case without incurring the expense of a doctor is a huge cost saver.
Unlike Circuit Court, the insurance company gets very limited “discovery” in General District Court. This means no depositions and written discovery (Interrogatories and Request for Production of Documents ). Given that, injury victims aren’t forced through the stress of responding to discovery.
With that said, you’ll likely be required to disclose various documents before trial in order to present them in court. Further, the lack of discovery does not always benefit injury victims, particurlarly when they need more information about the case prior to trial and only the defendant has.
It’s now more expensive for insurance companies to appeal.
Any party can appeal a finding by the General District Court to Circuit Court. However, Code Section 16.1-77 makes it more expensive for insurance companies. Indeed, the insurance company is now required to post a bond in the amount of the judgment up to their insurance limits to appeal. This means they actually have to pay money. While there are a lot of uncertainties in life, one true fact is insurance companies do not like paying money!
You can still sue in the Circuit Court for a higher amount.
Since Section 16.1-77 was amended, we have received many questions about how much a victim can sue for. Remember, you can still sue for more than $50,000. However, like before the change in the law, you will have to file in the Circuit Court. Section 16.1-107 simply increased the limits one can sue for in the General District Court.
Still have questions?
Make sure to check out our Personal Injury & Criminal Defense Practice Pages where we’ve answered many other questions you likely have. James Abrenio is a Fairfax-Based Personal Injury & Criminal Defense attorney who practices throughout Northern Virginia. You can learn more about James Abrenio, some of our Prior Results, and Read Our Reviews. Make sure to contact us at Ph. 703-570-4180 for your Free Consultation.