The Virginia General Assembly has passed two laws that will help injured plaintiffs make a speedier recovery. Beginning July 1, 2007, auto accident cases in Virginia will be able to get into court more quickly. Another law will make the presentation of your case less expensive by no longer requiring your doctor to testify in open court. The faster and less expensive resolution to these cases mean that it will be easier for injured plaintiffs to get their lives back on track.
One way that insurance companies have been able to delay payments in auto accident cases is a process called “removal.” This is a legal move that takes the case out of the Virginia General District Courts and places it in the slower and more effective Virginia Circuit Courts.
The new law means that in auto cases that involve less than $15,000 in damages can proceed in the General District Court and may not be removed into the federal system. Lawsuits filed in General District Court generally proceed to trial in 60-90 days, but those in Circuit Court can take over a year before jury trial.
Previously, any claim over $4,500 had the potential to be “removed” into the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court still has exclusive jurisdiction over any claims in excess of $15,000, meaning that you cannot even file those claims in the faster General District Courts.
The second big difference is that trials in General District Court are much less expensive for both the plaintiff and defense. In most cases, you will have to present evidence and testimony about your bodily injuries. This requires that your doctor or some other expert appear in court to testify. However, in General District Court, the plaintiff may put on medical evidence in the form of affidavits instead of testimony. To do this, the doctor simply writes a sworn explanation of his treatment of the patient. This is important for plaintiffs because of the hundreds of dollars in expenses that can be saved by not having to pay the doctor to come to court with you.
While these laws do not apply to more serious car crash injuries, they are a step in the right direction to faster recovery.